Health warning: Avoid Linlithgow Loch

The algae can cause liver failure in animals. Picture: Alan Murray
The algae can cause liver failure in animals. Picture: Alan Murray
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A health warning has been issued by West Lothian Council to avoid contact with Linlithgow Loch due to toxic algae that can cause liver failure in animals in extreme cases.

The council’s environmental health team is advising people and pets to stay out of the water at the tourist attraction following the discovery of a blue-green algae bloom called Cyanobacteria.

The algae is microscopic bacteria found in freshwater lakes, streams, ponds and brackish water ecosystems, which can produce toxins (such as microcystins and anatoxins) that affect people, livestock and pets that swim in and drink from the algae-contaminated water.

Dogs that enjoy swimming and playing in lakes and ponds may be exposed to blue-green algae. Hunting dogs are especially predisposed due to increased exposure outdoors. Exposure may result in liver damage or failure in the most extreme cases.

Signs of liver injury include vomiting, diarrhoea, blood in stool or black, tarry stool, weakness, pale mucous membranes, jaundice, seizures, disorientation, coma, and shock.

Death generally follows within days as a result of liver failure.

The algae was found after a check by the council which takes samples on behalf of the loch’s owner, Historic Scotland, and then submits them to SEPA for tests through a monitoring programme between April and October every year.

If high levels are found warning notices are put up.

A spokesperson for the council said: “With sunnier and warmer weather comes the increase of blue-green algae blooms appearing in bodies of still water such as Linlithgow Loch.

“In these bodies of water there lies a very real health risk for dogs that decide to go for a swim. Dog owners should refrain from allowing their dogs to swim in bodies of water where the risk of blue-green algae is possible.”

The council said it will take more samples early week and results will be published on its website.

The spokesperson added that there is no antidote for the toxins produced by blue-green algae. Immediate veterinary advice should be sought if you believe your dog may have been exposed to or has digested blue-green algae.

For more information contact Environmental Health on (01506) 280000 or environmentalhealth@westlothian.gov.uk.