Treatment of cyanobacterial (microcystin) toxicosis using oral cholestyramine: case report of a dog from Montana

Toxins (Basel). 2013 Jun;5(6):1051-63. doi: 10.3390/toxins5061051.


A two and a half year old spayed female Miniature Australian Shepherd presented to a Montana veterinary clinic with acute onset of anorexia, vomiting and depression. Two days prior, the dog was exposed to an algal bloom in a community lake.Within h, the animal became lethargic and anorexic, and progressed to severe depression and vomiting. A complete blood count and serum chemistry panel suggested acute hepatitis, and a severe coagulopathy was noted clinically. Feces from the affected dog were positive for the cyanobacterial biotoxin, microcystin-LA (217 ppb). The dog was hospitalized for eight days. Supportive therapy consisted of fluids, mucosal protectants,vitamins, antibiotics, and nutritional supplements. On day five of hospitalization, a bile acid sequestrant, cholestyramine, was administered orally. Rapid clinical improvement was noted within 48 h of initiating oral cholestyramine therapy. At 17 days post-exposure the dog was clinically normal, and remained clinically normal at re-check, one year post-exposure. To our knowledge, this is the first report of successful treatment of canine cyanobacterial (microcystin) toxicosis. Untreated microcystin intoxication is commonly fatal, and can result in significant liver damage in surviving animals. The clinical success of this case suggests that oral administration of cholestyramine, in combination with supportive therapy, could significantly reduce hospitalization time, cost-of-care and mortality for microcystin-poisoned animals.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / drug therapy*
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / veterinary
  • Cholestyramine Resin / therapeutic use*
  • Dog Diseases / chemically induced
  • Dog Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Harmful Algal Bloom
  • Lakes
  • Microcystins / toxicity*
  • Microcystis
  • Montana
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Microcystins
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Cholestyramine Resin
  • cyanoginosin-LA