Health

Officials Warn Of Toxic Algae That Can Harm Dogs

| by Sarah Zimmerman
Algae BloomAlgae Bloom

New York state officials are warning residents to keep their dogs away from the water.

The New York State Sea Grant as well as the state park system have confirmed the presence of harmful blue-green algae blooms in a number of lakes across the state, according to Buffalo News. Contact with the algae could cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, as well as skin, eye or throat irritation.

However, dog owners should be especially wary of affected lakes. Blue-green algae can cause damage to a dog's neurological system and pose a lethal risk.

"Dogs can be particularly susceptible to the effects of [Harmful Algae Blooms] HABs because of their behavior, sometimes drinking water from ponds, lakes, and streams; cleaning their wet fur; and consuming algal mats or scum with attractive odors,” said Jesse Lepak, New York Sea Grant Fisheries and Ecosystem Health Specialist.

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Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, occurs when there is an excess of nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen in the water, according to The New York Times. In more developed areas, these extra nutrients often come from storm water, septic tanks, and agricultural runoff.

If cyanobacteria is present, it will cause the water to turn a greenish-tint. Not all cyanobacteria is harmful, and it can be difficult to tell whether the algae present is harmful or not. Residents who suspect a possible algae bloom should stay away from the water and report it to The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The DEC tracks all suspected or confirmed blooms across the state.

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"By August, we usually have 70 to 80 ponds and lakes on the list," said DEC research scientist Rebecca Gorney.

Already, 30 lakes and ponds have confirmed blooms. Both the Lake in Central Park and the Prospect Park Lake have been confirmed to have high amounts of toxins, meaning that any contact with the lake could prove harmful.

"The toxins in blue-green algae can cause severe neurological symptoms that can lead to death [in dogs] within a couple of hours," said Manhattan veterinarian Dr. Vanessa Hammer.

Some nonprofit groups are hoping to find effective ways to clean the bodies of water before they can do any harm. One such group, The Prospect Park Alliance, has received a $390,000 state grant to initiate a new project that will attempt to filter out the excess nutrients from the headwaters.

Vice president of capital and landscape management for the Prospect Park Alliance Christian Zimmerman hopes that if the project succeeds, it can be used in parks across the nation.

"Everyone has a problem of nutrients in the lake," he said. "This is national. Nobody wants a green lake."

Sources: The Buffalo News, The New York Times / Photo credit: Basar/Wikimedia Commons, grotos/Flickr, Greenpeace China via eutrophication&hypoxia/Flickr 

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