North Carolina

Toxic algae kills 4 dogs in North Carolina, Georgia lakes. How to keep your pets safe

Four dogs in the South died in a matter of days from swimming in lakes with toxic blue-green algae, according to multiple reports.

Three dogs died Thursday after swimming in Wilmington, North Carolina, according to WECT. A fourth dog died Saturday after swimming in a lake near Marietta, Georgia, WXIA reports.

“At 12:08 AM, our dogs crossed the rainbow bridge together. They contracted blue green algae poisoning and there was nothing they could do. We are gutted. I wish I could do today over,” Melissa Martin, from Wilmington, said last week on Facebook.

Three other dogs have died in recent weeks at a lake in Austin, Texas, where authorities found the neurotoxin from algae in the water, according to The Austin American-Statesman.

“When conditions are right, blue-green algae can multiply and accumulate rapidly,” according to North Carolina public health officials. The algae is most likely to bloom in hot summer months in lakes and ponds that do not have good water flow, the state Department of Health and Human Services said.

“The algae can cause skin irritation or respiratory irritation in people who get in the water or handle the algae. Some blooms of blue-green algae can produce chemicals that are toxic to animals and people who drink the untreated water,” according to DHHS.

Martin said the three dogs died within hours of swimming in a pond. “Abby and Izzy had the most fun tonight chasing the ball and each other and rolling in the mud. What started out as a fun night for them has ended in the biggest loss of our lives,” she said.

But she does not want their deaths to be in vain. She said the pond, located “near her neighborhood,” had no warning about possible toxic algae.

Martin told ABC11, “By the end of this year, I plan to contact whoever I need to contact to make sure we have signs up at every body of water like this that says it’s toxic. Because nobody knows. Kids could get in it and it could poison them as well.”

In Georgia, Morgan Fleming said she took her border collie to play and cool off at Lake Allatoona, a reservoir just north of Marietta, WXIA reports.

“This morning we thought, it’s so hot! Let’s go to the lake! We took our sweet Arya to the lake and had the best day playing ball and swimming around! About 30 minutes later on the drive home, we noticed her making weird noises and she threw up,” Fleming said on Facebook.

She said by the time they got to the vet, Arya was brain dead.

“Today was absolutely awful. We lost our fun, loving, and crazy girl to what we can only assume was a lake toxin such as blue green algae,” she wrote. “Arya, no dog will ever replace you in our hearts.”

How to keep pets safe from toxic algae

Blue-green algae has killed dogs in North Carolina before, DHHS said. “Dogs are especially susceptible to cyanotoxins that attack the nervous system,” according to DHHS.

“By nature, dogs often play and wade in shallow areas of a pond or lake where algal blooms tend to concentrate due to wind and water currents, and where the toxins can become concentrated. Dogs usually become exposed to the toxins by drinking bloom waters or eating the algae,” DHHS said.

Here are tips from state officials to keep pets and children safe from toxic algae:

  • “Keep children and pets away from waters that appear discolored or scummy.
  • “Do not handle or touch large accumulations (“scums” or mats) of algae.
  • “Do not water ski or jet ski over algal mats.
  • “Do not use scummy water for cleaning or irrigation.
  • “If you accidentally come into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly.
  • “If your pet appears to stumble, stagger, or collapse after being in a pond, lake or river, seek veterinary care immediately.
  • “If your child appears ill after being in waters containing a bloom, seek medical care immediately.
  • “If you are unsure whether or not a bloom is present, it is best to stay out of the water.”
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