As of this Tuesday, Mote Marine’s Beach Conditions Reporting System at mote.org/beaches shows that southwest Florida is in decent shape, with a minor bloom toward the north end of Gasparilla Island and generally clear conditions along the Gulf Coast for the rest of the island, all the way down to the Boca Grande Pass. The major impact right now is from a bloom in the harbor, according to the NOAA Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecast System.
Red tide can be caused by many different algae, but K. brevis, which causes the blooms seen in the Gulf of Mexico, is rarely seen beyond its boundaries. The first studied red tide outbreak was off Venice in 1947, though the CDC reports that there are records of possible red tide blooms dating back to the 1800s.
Red tide blooms start in offshore waters and move inshore. While most blooms begin in late summer and fall, they can happen at any time during the year.
K. brevis makes and releases a toxin that irritates tissues, the brevetoxins. These toxins can affect the central nervous system of fish, causing fish kills. If it is inhaled, it can make respiratory conditions, such as asthma and emphysema, worse.
Another important aspect of red tide is its effect on animals. The FWC recommends bringing outdoor pets inside for the duration of the bloom. While all animals can be affected, dogs are the pets most likely to have problems, since they are more likely to be near or in contaminated water. They can eat contaminated shellfish, dead fish that have washed ashore or even sea foam. If a dog or other pet manages to swim in contaminated water, you should rinse them as soon as possible, before they can try to lick themselves clean and ingest the algae and toxin.
Pets show many of the same symptoms as humans, and veterinary treatment can be vital to the survival of an affected animal. According to Veterinary Neuro Services, LLC, who partnered with Mote to release a brochure on the subject, symptoms can rapidly progress from sneezing and drooling to seizures and blindness. Vets can test urine or samples of ingested material for the red tide toxin. Treatment is usually focused on reducing brain swelling with diuretics and controlling seizures and tremors using phenobarbitol.
If you are experiencing a red tide outbreak, try to keep your pets away from the water, and do not let them ingest anything found on the beach.
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