We love seeing people getting out with their dogs and living life to the fullest. Especially with the summer heat, swimming can be a fun and tiring activity for both man and dog. When first moving to Florida, I thought alligators were all I had to worry about when enjoying a day at the lake with the pups. I was unaware of the other hidden dangers lurking in the water. Over the last few weeks, dogs in Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia have passed away after playing in water contaminated with blue green algae. We want to help spread the word, and help to avoid the tragic endings that some have been experiencing lately after a day of fun in the sun.
On August 8, a North Carolina woman took her 3 dogs Harpo, Izzy, and Abby to cool off and play at the lake. Within hours, all three dogs were rushed to the vet, and passed away later that night.
On august 10, a couple in Georgia took their pup Arya for a day at the lake. On their drive home, Arya began vomiting in the car, and by the time they got to the vet she was brain dead.
Both of these families lost their beloved companions tragically and suddenly due to blue green algae poisoning.
Where is it found?
Blue green algae (Cyanobacteria) can be found in both fresh and marine water. Toxic levels can be found anywhere there is standing water, from lakes to (uncleaned) backyard pools and ponds. It is grows quickly during hot weather, and most likely to be found in nutrient-rich water. If the bacteria is ingested, either from drinking the water directly or licking off of their fur, it can be deadly. Melissa Martin, owner of Harpo, Izzy, and Abby, said 2 of her dogs didn’t even go in the water, but became sick after playing in the mud along the edge.
Symptoms of Blue Green Algae poisoning:
Symptoms can show up within minutes, to several days later. Some of these include
• Bloody stool
• Neurological signs (muscle tremors, muscle rigidity, paralysis)
• Difficulty breathing
What can I do if my dog is exposed?
If you believe your dog has been exposed, rinse them off immediately with fresh, clean water, and get them to the vet as soon as possible. While unfortunately there is no anecdote for blue green algae poisoning, if caught early enough they may be able to flush it from the dog’s system before doing fatal damage.
How do I know if the water is safe?
• Cyanobacteria cannot be seen with the naked eye, but it can give the appearance of algae when it clumps together in the water. The blooms can be blue, bright green, brown, or red. It sometimes looks like paint is floating on the water. The bacteria can also have a very strong and unpleasant smell.
• Check for any warning signs that may be posted.
Tips on avoiding the bacteria:
• Don’t let your dog drink out of pools or lakes.
• Keep your dogs on leash when near standing bodies of water.
• The dog can ingest the poison simply by walking through a contaminated area and then licking their paws. Rinse off your dog, especially their feet, if you think they may have come in contact with it.
• Avoid swimming in standing bodies of water. Also avoid water that smells bad or looks odd in color.
Is it harmful to me?
Exposure to the bacteria can make humans incredibly ill. It can cause anything from rashes, cramps, and nausea, to liver damage.
What to do
If you believe there is a blue green algae bloom, contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. They will collect a sample and analyze to see if there are harmful levels of the bacteria in the water. Their website and contact information can be found here:
The DEP has a Frequently Asked Questions sheet on their website, which can also be found by following this link:
Over the last few days, the stories of Melissa Martin (Harpo, Izzy, and Abby) and Morgan Flemming (Arya) have gone viral over Facebook, and are making national headlines. Their heart wrenching stories can be seen below:
At 12:08 AM, our dogs crossed the rainbow bridge together. They contracted blue green algae poisoning and there was…
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…
Melissa has set up a GoFundMe to raise awareness for Blue Green Algae. They are wanting to get signs put up in front of all contaminated water. In 4 days they have raised over $5,000. You can view their story and donate here: GoFundMe for Algae Awareness
Melissa warns that just because the water looks clear, doesn’t mean it isn’t contaminated. In another post on her Facebook page, she writes “If you search blue green algae, you see pictures of nasty water. That is false! The place our dogs played for their last time was crystal clear except for what appeared to be debris from foliage. Do not let your dogs near standing water. Our westies didn’t even get in the water but played in the mud at the edge.”
We always encourage people to “Go out and play” with their dogs. Outside activities are a great way to burn off some energy, build a better bond, and enrich the lives of both you and your pet. We are also urging you to be observant and aware of your surroundings. Be cautious, and if you feel like there may be any danger when bringing your pups to the lake, it’s better to be safe than sorry.