Algae in Lake Pontchartrain, Gulf Coast beaches can be fatal to pets

Updated: Aug. 13, 2019 at 5:53 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Pet owners may want to be wary before heading to the lake or beach, amid several reports dogs poisoned by toxic algae in recent days.

SPCA veterinarian Sarah Gautreaux said it doesn’t take long for things to take a turn for the worse, and many people don’t realize anything is wrong until it is too late.

“These signs have sudden onset. You’re talking minutes to hours after being exposed to this toxin. And so, most people don’t know what to look for," Gautreaux said. “They have this happy dog, everybody’s swimming, having a great time, and next thing you know, you have an obtunded, or a dog that can’t stand.”

A North Carolina pet owner reportedly lost three of her dogs, just hours after playing in a pond. Another couple in Georgia brought their border collie to a lake, where a vet said the animal also died from toxic algae.

Gautreaux said the bacteria either targets the liver or the central nervous system.

S said it's best to avoid the water altogether if there's any algae present.diarrhea, trembling, stiffness, yellow, paleS,” Gautreaux said.

She said dogs can start expressing symptoms from the toxins within minutes, to hours after exposure.

"There's very few patients that actually get to survive this toxicity," Gautreaux said

She said it’s best to avoid the water altogether, if there’s any algae present.

Brady Skaggs with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation said even if the blooms aren’t visible, toxins can linger.

"Sometimes that material can be long gone, and if it has produced toxins, it could be present in the water column afterwards," Skaggs said.

So far, Skaggs said they’ve collected samples of blue-green algae on Lake Pontchartrain’s north shore, but not on the south.

“They are species known to produce a toxin, and that’s where the advisory is," Skaggs said. “They are known to produce a toxin, but what isn’t well understood is the environmental factors, or having a forecasting, that help with identifying if they are producing a toxin.”

Gautreaux said so far, no animals have been brought to the SPCA clinic with toxic algae poisoning.

"Better safe than sorry is the approach I'd take from it. So any beaches that there's been an alert for algae blooms, any time you see algae in the water, I would not let my pets swim in there," Gautreaux said.

There is an active advisory from the Louisiana Department of Health that suggests no swimming in Lake Pontchartrain.

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