'We are gutted': Couple issues warning after all three of their dogs die from toxic algae

Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz are in mourning after their three dogs died from blue-green algae poisoning. Image via Facebook.
Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz are in mourning after their three dogs died from blue-green algae poisoning. Image via Facebook.

Pet owners are on high alert after three dogs died from playing in a North Carolina pond that contained toxic algae.

Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz are in mourning after taking their dogs Abby, Izzy and Harpo to play in a Wilmington, N.C. pond on Aug. 8. Within 15 minutes of leaving the pond, Abby began seizing and was immediately taken to veterinary hospital with both Izzy and Harpo in tow.

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Shortly after they arrived, Izzy began seizing followed by Harpo, a six-year-old therapy dog, who also began to suffer from liver failure.

In a heartbreaking Facebook post, Martin revealed that just after midnight on Aug. 9, all three dogs had died after being poisoned by blue-green algae.

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“At 12:08 a.m., our dogs crossed the rainbow bridge together. They contracted blue-green algae poisoning and there was nothing they could do,” the post read. “We are gutted. I wish I could do today over. I would give anything to have one more day with them.”

Martin said she had been working on a book about Harpo and his role as a therapy dog, and is determined to honour her pets by ensuring that dangers and warning signs of the algae are placed at standing bodies of water at risk for the deadly bacteria.

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“Abby and Izzy had the most fun tonight chasing the ball and each other rolling in the mud,” she said. “What started out as a fun night for them has ended in the biggest loss of our lives. We need your prayers. Not sure we’re strong enough to get through this without them.”

Image via Facebook/MelissaMartin.
Image via Facebook/MelissaMartin.

A GoFundMe page was set up by friends and helped raise nearly $5,000 which Marin and Mintz say they will use to help raise awareness for blue-green algae. Martin says the water on the day their dogs went swimming appeared clear, and is warning all pet owners to avoid letting their dogs swim in any body of water, regardless of appearance.

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The Martin and Mintz pups aren’t the only tragedy this summer caused by toxic algae. In Fredericton, N.B., Dr. Colleen Bray of Douglas Animal Hospital said a dog recently died at her practice after exposure to blue-green algae while swimming in the St. John River.

Morgan Flemming and Arya. Image via Facebook.
Morgan Flemming and Arya. Image via Facebook.

A Georgia couple was also forced to euthanize their dog after taking their border collie for a relaxing swim to beat the summer heat. Within 30 minutes after playing in the contaminated water, Morgan and Patrick Flemming said their dog Arya began making distressed noises and vomited and defecated in their car. In a Facebook post, the couple reveal that by the time they reached the vet, Arya was declared brain dead.

What is blue-green Algae?

Blue-green algae naturally occurs in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams that resembles foam on the surface of the water. Despite its name, this microscopic plant-like organism can also be olive-green colour and may even appear red or brown. According to experts, it’s possible that this toxic algae can grow in backyard pools and decorative ponds meaning proper sanitation of swimming water is of utmost importance.

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Blue-green algae blooms occur most frequently in late summer and early fall and can form in both shallow and deep water, regardless of the water’s temperature. Aside from its colour, toxic algae emits a distinct smell; new blooms can smell like mown grass, while older blooms have a rotting smell that although off putting to humans, can attract dogs.

Blue-green algae. Image via CBC.
Blue-green algae. Image via CBC.

The American Kennel Club advises dog owners to keep their pets on a leash and avoid bodies of water, especially water that appears to have foam or “mats” on the surface and avoid letting their pet drink from bodies of water such as ponds or lakes.

Symptoms for blue-green algae poisoning often appear quickly, sometimes 15 minutes after exposure. However, some dogs have been known to display signs several days after contact with harmful algae. Common signs of poisoning include diarrhea and vomiting, seizures, breathing difficulties, general weakness or unconsciousness, confusion and excessive drooling.

Immediate veterinary medical attention is required.

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