Dog owners in the Southeast are spreading the word about the dangers of contaminated water following the deaths of their beloved pets. In Wilmington, North Carolina, three dogs died after frolicking in a pond, while another succumbed after a swim in Lake Allatoona, Georgia. It is believed that their deaths were caused by liver failure brought on by ingesting water contaminated with toxic blue-green algae.
Blue-green algae can produce potent toxins that can sicken or even kill people, pets and wildlife, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Blue-green algae and other species of Harmful Algal Blooms can produce different types of poisons, some that affect the liver, others the brain.
But don’t panic. In North Carolina, between 2005 and 2012 there were a total of [64 algal bloom events reported](http:// https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/oee/docs/HAB_Events_2005_2012.pdf), and it has been years since a case of illness from algal bloom has been reported. Here is an Interactive Map of Algal Blooms from the NCDEQ
Even though the likelihood of your dog encountering algal bloom is slim, it still pays to be vigilant and be informed.
So, what can you do to protect your dogs?
- Don’t panic. As you can see from the prevalence maps, this has been around for decades. This is NOT a new emerging scary disease. We have NEVER seen a case at Town N Country (20 years) and the NC Department of Health and Human Services has not had a reported case for years here in our state.
- Avoid gross stinky bodies of water. Avoid the bodies of water on the map above between the months of May through August, which is when 80% of the blooms occur. Or just avoid them altogether. (Who wants to wash their dogs after all that anyway!)
- Have fresh water available when hiking with your dogs. If they are well-hydrated on fresh water, the odds of them needing to drink gross stuff is significantly less.
- Do not use scummy water for cleaning or irrigation.
- If you accidentally come into contact with an algal bloom, wash thoroughly.
- If your dog has already gotten into a harmful bloom, rinse your pet off immediately in fresh, clean water. Remember to wear gloves to protect yourself.
- 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.
- If you have a pond on your land, [refer to this article](http:// https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/oee/docs/HAB_Events_2005_2012.pdf) for a list of private laboratories that can test your water.
As always, we are here to answer any questions or concerns that you might have.