KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED: Vets warn dog owners to watch their pets near these blue creatures on the beach.
KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED: Vets warn dog owners to watch their pets near these blue creatures on the beach.

Alien sea creatures cause ‘severe’ reactions in pets

A NORTHERN Rivers vet is warning residents to keep dogs away from a non-local jellyfish after treating multiple pets for severe reactions when they were stung.

Bangalow Vets posted about the jellyfish on its Facebook page: "If you are taking your furry friend to the beach over summer please do not let them lick, sniff or eat these jellyfish."

The post mentioned that pets have shown "very severe respiratory and gastrointestinal reactions".

Steven W Purcell, Associate Professor at the National Marine Science Centre, said the jellyfish had a cute scientific name, Porpita Porpita, but were commonly called blue button jellyfish.

"The curious thing is that it is not even a jellyfish," he said.

"It is what we call a colonial hydrozoan."

The jellies are made up of numerous animals that together make the blue button.

"Each of the bits extending out is a separate hydroid animal, and has stinging cells called nematocysts, which are also found in sea anemones and jellyfish," Assoc Prof Purcell said.

"The central 'float' does the job of accepting food caught by the hydroids and converts that to energy for the colony."

Unlike jellyfish, that can swim with a pulsing action, the blue button jellies float and don't swim.

They are at the mercy of the wind and currents.

Assoc Prof Purcell said the blue buttons were a tropical and subtropical species, so they might be carried down in warm tropical waters by the East Australia Current, which is having a greater influence along southeastern Australia in this era due to warming oceans.

"At the moment, we have had a lot of northerly and north-easterly winds on NSW coasts, which would blow any drifting objects and animals from sea onto shore," he said.

"That would explain why we are seeing them more at the moment.

"The occurrence on beaches is probably not due to human effects."

Assoc Prof Purcell said they weren't very dangerous, but can cause skin irritations because they do have stinging cells.

"Generally, for stings from creatures like this, the first aid trainers are telling us to treat with ice on the affected area," he said.