Do pets face the same health concerns as humans living near the red tide
Studies show that animals are vulnerable to brevetoxins commonly released by the red tides
Beaches along the east coast of Florida were closed after the water tested positive for Karenia brevis
When guinea pigs were introduced to brevetoxins data showed the cause of death as respiratory failure
As Karenia brevis — the marine dinoflagellate responsible for causing the red tide — continues to run amuck through both the Gulf and now the Atlantic coasts of Florida, health concerns for the residents in the area are being raised. While concerns of the health effects of the red tides on humans has become a topic of discussion, you don’t hear much about the possible impact on pets.
There is still a lot of research that needs to be conducted on K. Brevis. While we have a basic understanding of the short-term effects of K. brevis on humans, we are still lacking data on the long-term effects so it should come as no surprise there is still some questions on the safety of pets. There are a few studies that focus on the impact K. brevis has on animal life.
In 1989, a study conducted by Franz and LeClaire exposed guinea pigs to K. brevis. In the study both brevetoxin and saxitoxin were administered to the guinea pigs via intravenous infusion. Brevetoxins are a common aerosol byproduct of the red tides, as is saxitoxin. Saxitoxin is behind paralytic shellfish poisoning which can be harmful if one consumes contaminated shellfish.
The brevetoxin caused increased ventilation in the guinea pigs before respiratory failure. The saxitoxin had a depressive effect on ventilation. Even though airways resistance was not increased, nor was dynamic compliance decreased during intoxication, data from the study showed the cause of death to be respiratory failure.
Another study looked at the deaths of at least 149 manatees in 1996 along the southwest coast of Florida. At the same time brevetoxin-producing K brevis in the area. Data suggested the deaths were most likely caused by chronic inhalation or ingestion of brevetoxins.
Grossly, severe nasopharyngeal, pulmonary, hepatic, renal, and cerebral congestion was present in all cases. Nasopharyngeal and pulmonary edema and hemorrhage were also seen. Consistent microscopic lesions consisted of catarrhal rhinitis, pulmonary hemorrhage and edema, multiorgan hemosiderosis, and nonsuppurative leptomeningitis. Immunohistochemical staining using a polyclonal primary antibody to brevetoxin (GAB) showed intense positive staining of lymphocytes and macrophages in the lung, liver, and secondary lymphoid tissues.
River Landings Animal Clinic’s website gives a few tips for those with pets near the red tide. Those near the red tide with pets that spend the majority of their time outside may want to consider bringing them inside during a red tide bloom. If you do take your pet to the beach during a red tide, do not allow them near the foam that accumulates on the beach. This foam has been found to be much more toxic than the water. Do not allow your pets to play with dead fish as toxins are stored in their guts and extremely resistant to cooking or freezing.
If you notice your pets acting differently, confused, clumsy or giving the impression they cannot see, experiencing seizures, or diarrhea, it is best to take them to a veterinarian to be examined as soon as possible.