Three Dogs Die From Fatal Freshwater Algae. Here's What You Need To Know To Keep Your Furry Friends Safe

Cyanobacteria or 'blue-green' algae, can develop at the surface of slow-flow freshwater rivers and lakes in the summer. PJ Photography/Shutterstock

What was supposed to be a fun summer afternoon with three healthy family dogs has ended in tragedy after the animals died suddenly after coming into contact with a sometimes fatal blue-green algae.

Everything seemed fine while the dogs played fetch and swam in a North Carolina pond last week. It wasn’t until several hours later that the family realized something was wrong and took their three animals to a local emergency trauma hospital. Shortly after, the dogs begin seizing and showing signs of liver failure, reports local television station WECT News.

"At 12:08 AM, our dogs crossed the rainbow bridge together. We are gutted. I would give anything to have one more day with them,” wrote owner Melissa Martin in a Facebook post that has now been shared more than 20,000 times.

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The dogs died just after midnight on Thursday of last week. The cause of death: green-algae poisoning.

“The contracted blue-green poisoning and there was nothing they could do,” wrote Martin. "We are now on a mission to put signs at every body of water that can have this deadly bacteria." 

Cyanobacteria are microscopic bacteria that are found in freshwater systems and produce a host of toxins. Poisoning by blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, occurs when animals are exposed to liver toxins and neurotoxins from an algal bloom, or an increase in algal production and concentration typically caused by the warmer summer months. Exposure in humans can often result in allergic reactions and gastroenteritis but is often fatal in animals. At least seven dogs have died from probable liver failure following exposure to blue-green algae, according to the American Kennel Club.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for blue-green algae poisoning but the Pet Poison Helpline has several tips for keeping your furry friend safe. Algal blooms most often occur during the hottest months of the year and are found in nutrient-rich water, so be sure to read all posted signage and avoid stagnant, colored water with algae formations on the surface of the water or along the shore. Large algae blooms often smell bad, which is a warning sign to you, but your pet may be attracted it. If you’re uncertain, avoid the water altogether: testing is the only way to determine whether there are toxins present and all algal blooms should be considered toxic. If your dog does come into contact with toxic water, rinse immediately with fresh water so they can't lick their paws or fur that may be carrying the algae.

Dogs suffering from blue-green algae poisoning will display a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, jaundice, disorientation, excessive secretions, neurological signs, and difficulty breathing, among others. If your fluffy pal exhibits any of these signs after a trip to lake or pond, contact a local Pet Poison Helpline or veterinarian immediately.

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