SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Pets encountering blue-green algae can have deadly consequences.
The algae isn’t actually algae at all. It’s a naturally-occurring bacteria in the water. Researchers have known about its harmful effects since the 1800′s.
“My mom, she reached out to me today,” said pet owner, Payton Ricci. “She was like, ‘have you heard about the dogs dying in lakes,’ and I was like, 'no, I haven’t.”
Payton Ricci says with the recent heat, she had thought about taking her two-year-old Australian cattle dog named Foster for a swim, but after learning about the potential danger that could be lurking in the water, she’s going to pass.
“I would be heartbroken if anything were to happen to him,” Ricci said. To get a better idea of why blue-green algae is so harmful, WTOC spoke with a professor and microbiologist at the University of Georgia - Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.
“They’re often quite easy to spot because they often color the water bright green,” said Marc Frischer with the University of Georgia - Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Marc Frischer explains while the heat can be too much for some kinds of bacteria on the water, blue-green algae does just fine, giving it a competitive advantage to thrive in fresh and saltwater environments. Anything that comes into contact with the bacteria’s toxins can fall victim.
“Those toxins can be neurotoxins, and there’s a number of different toxins that they can produce,” Frischer said. “And those are what can be harmful to animals, and if they get to high enough concentrations, they can be harmful to humans as well.”
Frischer says the instances of pets dying as a result of contact with the blue-green algae is pretty rare, but should be something pet owners are aware of.
The professor says the best thing to do is to pay attention to any alerts issued by groups monitoring water quality and heed any warnings, for your sake and your pets.