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Blue-green algae: 3 tips from a vet to keep your pet safe

What veterinarians say you should do to protect your dog.

ATLANTA — Multiple reports of dogs dying after coming into contact with blue green algae across the country have pet owners concerned.

From a case in Wilmington, North Carolina, where three dogs died from toxic blue green algae, according to a vet, to a case here at Red Top Mountain in Lake Allatoona, where a woman says her dog died just 30 minutes after playing in the lake. 

Dr. Justine Lee, an emergency critical care vet who is also double board certified in toxicology, says the majority of algae blooms aren't toxic, but the ones that are can be fatal. 

"Ninety percent of the algae blooms out there are not a big deal, but unfortunately a small percentage are, and they can be fatal," Lee told 11Alive's Elwyn Lopez. 

RELATED: Marietta couple shares warning on toxic algae after dog dies less than an hour after visit to Lake Allatoona

Harmful algae can bloom in fresh and marine water. They are found in standing water and streams, such as lakes, rivers and coastal areas. Toxic algae blooms can look like scum or foam, and some can resemble painting on top of the water. 

"Especially if it's brackish or it's really hot and humid, if you see any type of algae or any kind of blue, green coloring on the surface of the pond, do not let your dog swim in that water," Lee warned.

"The dog only has to take one or two licks before it results in severe life-threatening poisoning," she added. 

READ: Blue-green algae: What it is and how to spot it

The tell-tale signs of toxic algae poisoning can show up in just minutes. 

"They get nauseous, they start vomiting, they can develop jaundice or yellow skin very quickly, they can start having trembling, coma, seizures," Lee said. 

Credit: TEGNA

And the worst part, she said, there is "no antidote out there, but with aggressive treatment, it is potentially treatable." 

Dr. Lee said algae blooms in large amounts during hot and humid weather.

"And it's because it's hot and humid, we are seeing temperature conditions that are perfect for cyanobacteria - or blue green algae - to bloom in large amounts," she said.

RELATED: Is your pet at risk from toxic algae blooms at Allatoona Lake?

Advice to keep your pet safe from blue-green algae

  • If you see clumps of algae on the surface of the lake, keep your dog out of the water
  • Keep your dog on a leash
  • Do a quick 30 second scan on the whole lake
  • Bring fresh water for your dog, and make sure your dog is drinking out of that
  • Pre-program the phone numbers of your veterinarian, your emergency vet and the ASPCA animal poison control center in your phone


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