Swimming trips are turning tragic for dogs throughout the Southeast.

By Meghan Overdeep
August 14, 2019

After the recent deaths of four pups—three who died shortly after playing in a pond in Wilmington, North Carolina, and another who passed away following a swim in Lake Allatoona, Georgia—dog owners are spreading the word about the dangers of contaminated water.

The dogs were all killed by liver failure brought on by ingesting water containing toxic blue-green algae.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, toxic algae blooms are more likely to occur when the weather is warm, and waters are stagnant. Though they're most common in fresh water, David G. Schmale III, a professor at Virginia Tech, told WDSU that harmful algae has been observed in large freshwater lakes, smaller inland lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and marine coastal areas and estuaries in all 50 states. Even decorative ponds and backyard pools can become contaminated if not properly maintained.

Toxic algae can look like foam, scum or mats on the surface of water, explained Schmale. Harmful algae blooms, which can be blue, vibrant green, brown or red, are sometimes mistaken for paint floating on the water. It is also known to stink, which unfortunately might attract some animals.

If you think your dog has gotten into a harmful algae bloom, the EPA suggests rinsing him or her off with fresh water immediately. Watch for symptoms and take pets to the vet immediately if they suffer from diarrhea or vomiting, weakness or staggering, drooling, difficulty breathing and convulsions or seizures. Symptoms can arise anywhere from 15 minutes to several days after exposure.