2 dogs went swimming in a pond, drank the water and died. Chief suspect: Toxic algae

Slimy algae blooms foul California’s waterways

California waterways were exploding with potentially toxic algae blooms in 2016, another fallout from the prolonged drought.
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California waterways were exploding with potentially toxic algae blooms in 2016, another fallout from the prolonged drought.

Two dogs have been killed by toxic blue-green algae in a Napa County pond as warnings of similar blooms proliferate.

The dogs died last week after swimming in a pond off Milton Road in Napa, report Napa County health officials. Warnings about similar blue-green algae blooms also have been issued for Lake San Antonio in southern Monterey County, Lake Temescal in Oakland and San Luis Reservoir in Merced County.

Health officials advise people to avoid close contact with bodies of water containing blue-green algae and not to eat fish caught there.

“Be aware of posted signs that indicate the presence of blue-green algae. Also, if the body of water has a lot of algae or scum floating in it … it may be best for you and your pets to avoid the water.” Napa County Public Health Officer Karen Relucio warned in a release. “These algae produce toxins that can cause eye irritation, skin rashes, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms.”

Pets are the most common victims of blue-green algae poisoning because they tend to drink water while swimming, Relucio said. But children and adults can suffer serious liver, kidney and nervous system damage from swallowing water containing the algae.

Blue-green algae are microscopic bacteria that can be found in freshwater lakes, rivers and streams, Relucio said. The blooms appear as blue-green, white or brown foam, scum or mats that typically float on the water’s surface and collect along shorelines and boat ramp areas. They are caused by slow-moving warm water and high levels of nutrients in the water.

Ordinary water purification techniques, such as filters or tablets, do not remove toxins from the algae.

The California Deapartment of Public Health says blue-green algae blooms occur most often in warmer months, and notes that dogs as well as sea otters have died as a result of toxic algae in past years.

Relucio offers the following tips on protecting yourself and your pets from toxic blue-green algae blooms:

▪ Ensure that pets and livestock don’t drink the water, swim through algae or lick their fur after going in the water. Rinse pets in clean water to remove algae.

▪ Avoid wading, swimming or using recreational water craft in water containing algae blooms.

▪ Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated water from contaminated lakes or ponds.

▪ Do not eat fish or shellfish from these areas.

▪ Seek immediate medical treatment if you or a pet are exposed to toxic blue-green algae.

Algae blooms were a serious problem in summer 2016 after California’s prolonged drought.