Facebook | Melissa Martin

Woman's Three Dogs All Die Within Hours Of Playing In A Pond With Toxic Algae

ryan.ford 12 Aug 2019

A fun summer play date at a pond quickly turned to tragedy for dog owner Melissa Martin after an encounter with toxic blue-green algae, and she wants every other dog owner to know and be aware of the dangers.

North Carolina's Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz were expecting their trip to a local pond with their three dogs to just be a cool, splashy adventure.

Facebook | Melissa Martin

"What started out as a fun night for them has ended in the biggest loss of our lives," Melissa wrote in a Facebook post. Abby, Izzy, and Harpo all passed away within hours of their visit to the pond.

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The signs that something was wrong started quickly.

Facebook | Melissa Martin

Within 15 minutes of leaving the pond, Abby, a West Highland terrier, started having a seizure. Melissa and Denise rushed all three of them to a veterinary hospital, where Izzy, also a Westie, started having a seizure as well. As their health declined, Harpo, six-year-old doodle mix and therapy dog, then started to seize and show signs of liver failure.

By midnight, all three had died.

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As the veterinarian informed them, flower debris they had seen in the pond was not actually from flowers.

Facebook | Melissa Martin

They were blooms of cyanobacteria. "They contracted blue green algae poisoning and there was nothing they could do," Melissa wrote. "We are gutted. I wish we could do today over."

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Melissa also said that there were no warning signs about toxic algae blooms around the pond.

Facebook | Melissa Martin

The pond is located near a popular walking trail in Wilmington, North Carolina, so it's not inconceivable that other dog owners might want to let their dogs play there. Now, Melissa has made it her mission to put up signs and spread the word about toxic algae.

"I will not stop until I make positive change," she told CNN. "I will not lose my dogs for nothing."

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Without posted signs, there are still things to look out for.

Facebook | Melissa Martin

As the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services points out, toxic algae blooms are most likely to be found in fresh water that's stagnant, during warm weather.

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Algae blooms can be difficult to detect, however.

Blue Cross for Pets

They often show up as a murky, mucky film on the surface of a body of water, but that's not always the case. Humans and pets should both avoid waters that smell bad or are oddly colored.

"The place our dogs played for the last time was crystal clear except for what appeared to be debris from foliage," Melissa wrote.

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Dogs are particularly vulnerable to toxic algae poisoning.

Facebook | Melissa Martin

The blooms are heaviest in the shallow areas of a pond, where dogs are most likely to splash around. There is no cure, and drinking water infected with toxic algae or licking it off their fur can kill a dog in as little as 15 minutes, according to Blue Cross for Pets.

Melissa said that Izzy and Abby didn't even get in the water, only playing in the mud at the pond's edge.

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Officials do try to keep a database of algal blooms.

Facebook | Morgan Grady

North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality has a map of the state's reported algal bloom sites, but it's unclear how often it gets updated.

A GoFundMe has been started for Melissa and Denise to help try to get the word out and raise awareness about blue-green algae.

h/t: CNN

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