Local News

Dog dies after exposure to toxic algae in Twin Cities

9/18/2009 6:40:40 PM

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Officials are warning people to keep children and pets away from any suspicious-looking algae blooms after they linked the death of a 3-year-old black lab to toxic blue-green algae on a southern Minnesota lake.

The dog died Sunday after swimming in Fox Lake in Martin County, said Matt Lindon, a water quality specialist for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"The dog was in the water for a couple of hours before the owners noticed any kind of problems or symptoms. It basically had a nervous system shutdown, including seizures," Lindon said Friday.

Blue-green algae can produce toxins that can be deadly to animals if ingested.

While the MPCA has received complaints this year about sick dogs, the lab's death was the first known animal death this year linked to blue-green algae. Other dog deaths occurred in 2004 and 2007.

Blue-green algae blooms are most common in warm weather when there's been a lack of rain. Minnesota weather this year provided average conditions for producing the blooms on lakes, Lindon said. The blooms usually go away when the weather cools in September, he said.

Human deaths from blue-green algae are rare, but people can suffer from skin irritations and nausea if they are exposed to it. Young children are the most at risk.

The MPCA has collected water samples at Fox Lake, and Lindon said the algae looks like it produces toxins. Test results are still pending.

Lindon said officials are trying to prevent problems with blue-green algae by warning people to keep away from blue-green algae blooms and by getting people involved in efforts to reduce the levels of nutrients in lakes.

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