A doggie playdate at a park in North Carolina turned tragic after three pups died from blue green algae poisoning from a pond’s harmful algal bloom on Thursday night
The dog owners, Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz, shared a Facebook post the next day, with photos of their three dogs — West Highland terriers Abby and Izzy and a larger canine named Harpo — from their time at a pond in Wilmington, just hours before all three pets died.
“A 12:08 AM, our dogs crossed the rainbow bridge together,” the post read. “They contracted blue green algae poisoning and there was nothing they could do. We are gutted. I wish I could do today over. I would give anything to have one more day with them. Harpo and I had work to do, but now we will carry on in his memory and we will make sure every standing body of water has a warning sign.”
Abby was the first of the three dogs to show signs of complications. Fifteen minutes after leaving the pond, the dog began to have a seizure, according to CNN.
Martin and Mintz quickly rushed Abby to the veterinarian. Not long after, Izzy and Harpo both began experiencing seizures, with the latter also showing signs of liver failure.
By midnight, all three dogs were dead.
Martin told CNN that she didn’t notice the algae at first, but, as she learned from her veterinarian, what appeared to be debris from flowers was actually blooms of cyanobacteria.
As Martin and Mintz said in the Facebook post, the pond outing started as a fun occasion for the owners and their dogs, and turned into the “biggest loss of our lives.”
Martin and Mintz go on to promise in the post that they would begin an initiative to set signs up near bodies of water that are contaminated with the deathly algae, and have created a GoFundMe page to raise money to do so.
As of Monday afternoon, the page has raised over $3,300, with over 125 donations after just two days.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), fresh water toxic “algal blooms are most likely to form in warm, still waters that have a lot of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen.” Harmful algal blooms can also form in salt water.
Blue-green algae, the kind that led to the death of these three dogs, “can produce two types of toxins, microcystins and anatoxins,” reports VCA Hospitals. “The clinical signs of poisoning depend on which toxin is involved. Microcystins affect the liver and anatoxins target the nervous system.”
Both of the toxins act fast and cause severe health problems that can lead to death hours, and sometimes minutes, after a dog accidentally ingests algal bloom water.
“Prompt treatment is important in all cases of poisoning, but since blue-green algae attacks so fast, speedy intervention is critical. If you know your dog consumed algae, seek immediate medical care,” VCA Hospital writes on their website.
If a dog gets to a vet before symptoms appear, there is a chance the toxin can be purged from the animal’s system.
“The toxins enter the system so quickly that the animal is usually sick before reaching medical care,” adds VCA Hospitals. “It is often too late to remove the toxin. Worse still, there is no specific antidote for blue-green algae poisoning. Treatment is limited to supportive care focused on affected organ systems.”
The best way to protect your pet from these lethal algal bloom is prevention.
Maps of the states where algae blooms reside are periodically updated by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. However, if a health notice isn’t posted, it’s recommended that humans and pets avoid waters that seem murky or smell bad.