Blue-Green Algae Infected Lakes Toxic to Dogs

by Nancy Hassel,, August 14, 2019

By now you probably have heard the tragic story about the 3 dogs that died after a romp in a lake in Wilmington, NC.  Sadly they are not the only dogs in the country that have been in a local pond or lake and perished a few hours after a fun day in the water.   My heart breaks for these dog parents, how would they have known?   I am grateful they and sadly others, shared their stories to let other dog parents know what happened to their precious dogs to warn everyone.  

Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 9.18.49 AM
Photo Credit: Melissa Martin. RIP Harpo, Abby and Izzy.
Signs/Symptoms Your Dog May Have Ingested Blue-Green Algae from the
AKC website are:
  • Diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Drooling.
  • Neurologic signs such as:
  • Weakness.
  • Disorientation/confusion.
  • Collapse/unconsciousness.
  • Seizures.
  • Breathing difficulties.

A quick search shows dogs in all areas of the country have lost their lives to swimming in blue-green algae infected lakes or ponds.  It’s devastating to pet parents who were just out having a nice day with their pups not knowing of the dangers.

“Blooms can form in warm, slow-moving waters that are rich in nutrients from sources such as fertilizer runoff or septic tank overflows.  Bluegreen algae blooms need nutrients to survive. The blooms can form at any time, but most often form in late summer or early fall.” –  You can see additional information on the CDC’s website.

Last summer we, here on Long Island, NY at many local lakes and ponds had the algae warning and one that is local to me also had warning signs for weeks.  I can tell you we did not step foot near that park until the signs were down after the town tested the water again and it was cooler outside.   I had never seen warning signs like that near that pond, but I also never let my dog in the pond, it always seemed dirty and lots of glass and pollution in the water, yet people fish and let their dogs in it.  

I prefer the saltwater of the bay for my dog – and he stays on a 30-foot long lead so he can romp, swim and have fun, and not swim off (not that he would at this point), but also knowing we are near the inlet and ya know sharks live in the ocean.  He has already been bitten by a crab the first summer I got him and had an infection from it, really?  Seriously.  Then last summer bit by a spider while we were on a late-night walk, that took 8 weeks to heal, I thought his modeling career was over! Ok, I digress.  

Cody romping at the bay beach, Long Island, NY.
Cody romping at the bay beach, Long Island, NY.   If you look closely you can see his cotton long lead in the water!

Growing up fishing in the bay and ocean, I see when the birds are working, fish are jumping and can easily reel him in with the long lead even if they are just big bluefish chasing the smaller fish – Cody doesn’t need any part of that!  I also keep his swim time to 20 – 25 minutes, no more than that.  Saltwater is not good for your dog to ingest – although he is good about it and is not trying to drink the saltwater – still, that time limit keeps him from getting sick or having firehose poop reactions. Haha sorry – but it’s true!

So even though it is still hot in many areas and will be for a few more months, and you may not be near an ocean or a bay, please re-think heading to the local lake or pond to let your dog swim.  I can’t imagine all bodies of water are tested regularly – especially in less suburban areas.  That also goes for paddleboarding and kayaking with your dogs in lakes or ponds – think twice about bringing your dog along.   

You could always ask your town officials if they test the water near you and if they don’t see how you can lobby to get that done regularly.  Best yet, get a doggie/kiddie pool if you really want your dog to cool off, be sure to empty the water after though!  Even local pools and water parks have doggie swim days when they are closing for the season, see if someone near you is doing that. 


Keep those pups safe, the stories are absolutely heartbreaking and I don’t want it to happen to your dog.

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