Blue Green Algae- To swim or Not to Swim?

Many of us love to be outdoors and find a sense of peace when we take walks with our pets near water, like our local lakes and ponds, but what kind of water are we exposing our pets to? In the United States and all over the world there has been an increasingly alarming environmental issue with our water containing blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria. There has even been scientific research done that indicated the prevalence of blue-green algae around the world.

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, is a group of photosynthetic bacteria that live in a wide variety of freshwater and saltwater environments. Sunlight, stagnant, warm water temperatures and excess nutrients cause these species to “bloom”. Some species of blue-green algae contain cyanotoxins and can produce large and harmful algal blooms (HABs). They contain hepatotoxin, a toxic chemical that damages the liver. Microcystin-LR (MC-LR) and nodularin-R (Nod-R) are the more common toxins found in our freshwater and saltwater environments. These HABs can become so toxic that “even when a bloom has dissipated, toxins can still remain in the body of water” (Walker, 2019). 

In the United States, there have been blue-green algae incident reports made in Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Carolina, to name a few. These toxins have been attributed to gastroenteritis, allergic reactions and may cause serious damage to the liver. There has also been a numerous amount of pet deaths caused by exposure to blue green algae. Some predeath symptoms three dogs in Wilmington, North Carolina experienced were seizures and foaming at the mouth. Dogs can also experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as severe liver damage. Because of these increasingly occurring deaths, it has caused national news, researchers and organizations to look more into our lakes and ponds to show that our local freshwater and saltwater are harmful to both swim in and consume.

In Turku, Finland, researchers have conducted several studies that test their surface water to show the presence of the widespread hepatotoxins. They used highly sensitive immunoassays that detected the existence of the harmful chemicals in the environmental surface water samples (Akter, Vehniainen, Spoof, Nybom, Meriluoto, & Lamminmaki, 2016). “The Environmental Working Group…found nearly 300 blooms recorded in lakes and rivers in 48 states since 2010” (Marohn, 2018). They also found that in 2017, “169 blooms were reported in 40 states, compared to three in 2010” (Marohn, 2018). So, there is no doubt that these toxins are becoming more and more of an issue in the world.

Fortunately, there is a way that our surface water can be tested!  5Strands® Affordable Testing now has a Blue Green Algae Test that allows consumers to test their local lakes and ponds. The kit is simple and easy to use and after 15 minutes of use, it will indicate if there are blue-green algae in the water. 

With global warming and climate change, these toxins will spread even more and become more prevalent in our environment. Unfortunately, it is difficult to rid our waters of these toxins. However, you can allow yourself to be at ease for your pets and livestock that are exposed to and consume our surface water by testing your local lakes and ponds with 5Strands Blue Green Algae Test. I know my dog, Max, loves the water and loves drinking water wherever he goes and the last thing I want to happen is Max becoming seriously ill or worse after simply trying to hydrate himself. So please, do your research and be sure to test your local lakes and ponds. We may not be able to rid them of these harmful toxins, but we can at least minimize the number of illnesses and deaths after exposure.

References

Akter, S., Vehniainen, M., Spoof, L., Nybom, S., Meriluoto, J., & Lamminmaki, U. (2016, 

September 22). Broad-Spectrum Noncompetitive Immunocomplex Immunoassay for Cyanobacterial Peptide Hepatotoxins (Microcystins and Nodularins). Retrieved from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.analchem.6b02470

Marohn, K. (2018, May 15). Report: Toxic algae are growing threat to water, human health. 

Retrieved from https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/05/15/toxic-algal-blooms-increasing-threat-to-water-human-health

Walker, M. (2019, August 14). Dogs are dying from blue green algae: What pet owners need to 

know. Retrieved from https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/08/13/

blue-green-algae-killing-dog-poisoning/1996204001/[wdi_feed id=”1″]

Thinking Outside of The Box ;)

Last week a woman came into my store with a little dog that looked like a mix of terrier breeds. We began talking about how her dog came into her life. Her and her husband went to a local shelter with hopes of finding a new addition to their home. As they pulled into the parking lot, a stray dog actually bolted across the street and ran right up to them! It was definitely a circumstance where the dog chose them and that was that. As she was telling me every detail, she snuck in a comment about how she does not crate him. I could feel the judgement in her words. We all have different opinions on the way to raise our pets, and I feel like crate training has a lot of negative connotations associated with it. The thought of putting their pet in a cage freaks some people out. However, there are actually many benefits to it. By using positive reinforcement, crate training can have a beneficial impact on your pet’s life.

 

 

  • Safe haven.

 

 

A crate can become a dog’s own little sanctuary in the house by using positive reinforcement during training. It is where they can go to unwind and relax from the day. Unless your pup has their own bedroom, a crate would be the next best thing. Plus, dogs are naturally den animals, so a covered crate is the perfect place for them to go where they won’t be disturbed. Having the crate covered with a blanket or choosing a plastic flight kennel creates a comforting atmosphere, especially for puppies who are learning to sleep through the night. There’s a website called www.thisiswhyimbroke.com that I like to browse. It’s a compilation of some of the most obscure and random items found for sale on the internet. I’ve never actually bought anything I saw on there, but recently they posted an outdoor, underground dog den. It’s such a genius product! You dig a hole, and place this big plastic den into the ground. It slopes down with a small staircase; perfect for dogs to find solitude out in the yard. Since it’s half underground, the ground keeps the den at a comfortable temperature all year round. I think it would be a great idea for dogs and cats, alike.

 

 

  • Reduce anxiety.

 

 

Crate training could potentially prevent or help ease the symptoms that anxiety can cause. This applies to how the dog may feel while home alone during the day and even at daycare. No one wants to come home to destroyed furniture or the contents of your garbage can sprinkled around your home. If you have a dog walker who is providing exercise midday or while you’re at work, and your dog is still destructive, then a crate may be a comforting solution, with the help of positive reinforcement. The goal is to help your dog understand that the crate is not a punishment, but rather their own personal space to relax. Dogs can feel the stress of busy lifestyles that their humans have established. We’ve asked our pets to live in city settings and small spaces with us, and that alone can cause stress and anxiety for them, not to mention that they are sensitive to our anxiety as well. Dogs with a lot of energy don’t always know when to stop and take a break, which can lead to anxious behaviors, so that can be a great time for the crate to come into play. Giving them 10-15 minutes breaks while you’re cooking dinner or winding down at the end of the night can help calm their minds.

 

 

  • Help with potty training.

 

 

Depending on who you ask, some people will tell you that the primary use for crate training is to help with potty training. The theory is that dogs will not mess where he sleeps. This may be true, to an extent. Keep in mind, that this is merely a tool in the training process. Your pups should still be taken outside on a reasonable and regular schedule, or they will have accidents and be very confused about what is acceptable. Just because the dog is crated, doesn’t mean that they can hold it all day while you’re at work. They still need potty breaks, mental stimulation, and exercise throughout the day.

 

 

  • Make travelling or boarding easier.

 

 

All of these benefits are intertwined and this reason is a good combination of the first three. Whether you are travelling or your dog is travelling with you, different factors can cause anxiety. Having your pet trained to find comfort in their crate will be the best thing for you and them. My cat does not do well when we travel in the car, so when I moved down here from New York, I knew I had to be strategic about how to drive down alone with him. My solution was a dog crate covered with a blanket that he often slept on. It smelled like home, while comforting him during the move; plus it kept him contained to one area of the car. Otherwise, he gets so uncomfortable riding in the car that he can’t sit still and climbs everywhere. The last time I had to crate him was when he was a kitten. He’s the only cat I’ve adopted that did not naturally figure out how to use the litter box. Instead, I would find little kitten poops all over my apartment. So while I was at work, I kept him in a big dog crate with a litter box and he got rewarded every time he would use it. It took some time, but he got there. (A bonus crate benefit for those with cats!)

If you leave your dog at a boarding facility or have a pet sitter, crate training would still be beneficial. There are cage-free facilities where all of the overnight boarders are loose in the daycare space, but if that isn’t the case then it’s likely that your dog will be in a crate or a kennel while you’re gone. This allows the dogs to calm their minds and get a proper amount of rest during their stay. Not being at home and with their humans can cause stress, so having that ability to find comfort in their own personal den space is a great way to keep anxiety away.

 

 

  • Routine.

 

 

We all understand the significance or routine and ritual. Even if it’s having a morning or evening routine to prepare for the day or wind down from the day, having a routine can benefit us and our pets. Being a dog walker for about four years now, as well as working in daycare/boarding facilities, I can always tell which dogs have structure in their lives. I love when a dog brings me on their usual route during a walk or shows me where treats are before running into their crate. I can tell those dogs have the same rituals and routines every day, which makes everything run smoothly. Having a well behaved dog that enjoys their crate can also be a great quality if you are able to bring your dog to work with you!

 

These are steps that can lead to a happy life for your pet. Crate training is not just for puppies, though. If you adopt an adult dog from a shelter, they can absolutely benefit from basic training and crate training. They most likely did not have routine and structure in their lives before, which can bring them peace of mind when transitioning into their new life. It takes away the feelings of uncertainty and can really boost their confidence. As our pets get older, sometimes they can develop anxiety, especially if they lose their eyesight. Having their own personal space where they can feel safe at all times may be important for them in the long run.

An Apple A Day, Keeps the Doctor Away

We’ve all heard the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but what does that really mean? It means that incorporating healthy, fresh foods into your diet decreases your likelihood of becoming ill and having to go to the doctor, but there is a myriad of other benefits of eating fresh foods. Some benefits include promoting a healthy weight, providing vital nutrients, and aiding in a healthy heart and gut.

It is important to consume fresh foods on a daily basis not just for the added benefits, but also so it doesn’t feel like you’re dieting. Fresh foods should be a part of every meal that you eat and here are a few reasons why:

 

  • Promotes healthy weight. When we eat processed foods, they are loaded with ingredients, like artificial sugars and monosodium glutamate (MSG), that make us crave more which then makes us overeat. Fresh foods do not contain these ingredients that make us want to overeat, so it helps decreases obesity. We are also more likely to have more energy throughout the day and are more likely to exercise which reduces obesity.
  • Low in sugar. Even though fresh foods, like fruits, contain sugar, it’s a natural and lower amount of sugar. It decreases your “risk of obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and heart disease” (Spritzler, 2019). Eating fresh foods can bring your blood sugar levels down and helps you maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
  • High in fiber and healthy fats. Fresh foods are also high in fiber and healthy fats. They do not contain trans and processed fats, can help decrease inflammation, boosts digestive function, promotes metabolic health, and gives you feelings of fullness so you don’t overeat. Foods high in fiber include chia seeds, flaxseeds, blackberries, beans and legumes. Foods high in healthy fats include salmon, avocadoes, nuts and seeds.

 

 

  • Loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. As we already know, fresh foods have an abundance of vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that we all need to aid in proper digestion, brain, liver and heart function, and boosts our energy level throughout the day. When we are at our optimal health, we are less likely to become ill because our bodies are better able to fight diseases.
  • Good for your skin. When we drink plenty of water and eat fresh foods, our bodies will reflect our clean eating habits. They help protect and nourish our skin. Foods like “dark chocolate and avocados have been shown to protect skin against sun damage” and “studies suggest that eating more vegetables, fish, beans, and olive oil may help reduce wrinkling, loss of elasticity, and other age-related skin changes” (Spritzler, 2019).
  • Keeps your heart and gut healthy. Since fresh foods are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, it helps support a healthy heart, and “may also help reduce inflammation, which is considered one of the major drivers of heart disease” (Spritzler, 2019). Along with a heathy heart, when your body receives the proper nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it aids in a heathy gut. This makes for better digestion and absorption of nutrients into the body.
  • Costs less in the long run. It may seem like eating fresh foods can be expensive at times, but you actually save money in the long run. When you’re at your optimal health, you are less likely to become sick, to have to go to take off from work or school, less likely to go to the doctor and less likely to have to buy medicine to make you feel better. It reduces the risk of many diseases like diabetes and heart disease, so you are not spending an excess amount of money on treatment for these and many other diseases.
  • Provides variety. There are countless meals you can make with fresh foods and countless options when you include all of the major food groups into each meal. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fresh fish, meat and poultry can all be prepared in different ways that provide delicious and nutritious meals. Eating the same processed foods can get old and boring, so when eating fresh foods, try foods that you have not tried before in order to broaden your repertoire of fresh food options. 

 

While making a lifestyle change of incorporating more fresh foods is excellent and very beneficial to our overall health, you still want to make sure you talk to your health care provider about what foods you can and cannot eat. For example, I love fresh pineapple but I’m unable to eat them because the acidity from it disrupts my digestion, so that is one fresh food I know I cannot have. Another way to know if you have food sensitivities is to get a food intolerance analysis done with  5Strands® Affordable Testing, a non-invasive way to get your own personalized results of foods you should either cease eating or slow down eating. Once you know what those foods are, you can then make the change of consuming the best kinds of fresh foods for you!

 

References

Spritzler, F. (2019, April 12). 21 Reasons to Eat Real Food. Retrieved from 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/21-reasons-to-eat-real-food#section17