Toxic Algae is Killing Dogs. How to Protect Your Pet

Join the dog owners on their mission to spread awareness of this doggy danger.

When Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz went for an evening walk with their West Highland Terriers Izzy and Abby and service dog Harpo, they had no inkling that by midnight their beloved pets would be gone.

The dogs were fast friends who loved to frisk and frolic, as you can see in this video from Melissa's Facebook page:

The night they died, the dogs played at a pond near the family's home in Wilmington, NC, chasing a ball, chasing each other, rolling in the mud and spashing in the water. When the family got home, the dogs started having seizures, one after the other. Their vet, who could do nothing to save the dogs, told the women their pets were poisoned by blue-green algae that was in the pond where the dogs had played.

Service dog Harpo died from exposure to toxic algae while swimming in a pond.

"What started out as a fun night for them has ended in the biggest loss of our lives," wrote Melissa in a Facebook post .

The Pet Poison Hotline webpage says blue-green algae, officially known as cyanobacteria, are microscopic bacteria found in freshwater lakes, streams, and ponds . They can produce toxins that affect people, livestock and pets that swim in and drink from the algae-contaminated water. They often show up as "blooms" that give the water a blue-green appearance or a pea soup-like color, although the blooms can be other colors, and some experts say the presence of the algae can sometimes be so subtle it's hard to see.

Not all algae blooms are as obvious as this one. (Source: NOAA)

These algae blooms have shown up all over, from Maine to Florida, in ponds in Ohio and Minnesota, even closing popular lakes in Rhode Island and New Jersey. While the algae can make people ill too, it's especially deadly to dogs who make themselves sicker when they lick their fur to clean it. PennLive says more than 30 states now have monitoring programs for harmful algae blooms , and many require warning signs to be posted when the amount of contamination becomes unhealthy.

Denise and Melissa says the pond they visited had no warning signs, an issue they plan to address in memory of their beloved pets. "Harpo and I had work to do," wrote Melissa on Facebook. "But now we will carry on in his memory and we will make sure every standing body of water has a warning sign."

We are now on a mission to put signs at every body of water that can have this deadly bacteria.

If you'd like to be part of their initiative, they've got a GoFundMe going called the Harpo, Izzy, and Abby's Blue-Green Algae Awareness campaign. Click here to find out more .

To protect your own pets, experts say:

  • Avoid bodies of water that have obvious green algae near the surface, or are cloudy or have floating particles.
  • Pay attention ot any posted warning signs.
  • Call your vet IMMEDIATELY if your pet shows symptoms like seizures, vomiting, or foaming at the mouth.
  • Rinse off pets that have been swimming.
  • If you're unsure about the quality of water in a pond or lake, simply don't let your pet swim there.
  • If there's obvious contamination, contact your state environmental officials and ask them to test the water and post a warning if it's unhealthy.

(Images & video: Melissa Martin Facebook page )

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