A fun summer's night turned tragic when three dogs died suddenly due to something their owners had never even known was a threat. Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz of North Carolina are mourning their dogs, Abby, Izzy, and Harpo after all three were poisoned by blue-green algae. Now that their dogs are gone, Melissa and Denise are determined to spread the word about the dangers of toxic algae and save other families from experiencing their same heartbreak.
It all started on a warm night in Wilmington, NC. The weather had been stifling, and Melissa and Denise thought it would be fun to get their dogs together for a playdate. They headed to a pond a short distance from a popular walking trail and spent the evening splashing and swimming.
The dogs had fun playing with each other and their humans, and everyone appreciated the respite from the season's heat.
Once the group had packed up and started for home, however, everything changed. Within 15 minutes of leaving the pond, Abby, a West Highland terrier, had a seizure. Melissa rushed the little dog to the nearest animal hospital with Izzy and Harpo close behind. By the time they made it to the vet, Izzy, also a Westie, started seizing. As the two terriers declined, Harpo, a doodle mix and therapy dog, also started to seize and show signs of liver failure.
Melissa, Denise, and their team of emergency vets did everything they could to save the trio of dogs. But by midnight the following day, all three dogs had died.
To unravel the mystery of how three healthy dogs could all die so suddenly, veterinarians turned back to the pond. Blue-green algae is a type of bacteria called cyanobacteria. It thrives in warm, stagnant water where it can form quickly into "blooms."
When most people think of algae in ponds, they picture bright green scum that floats on the surface. But according to CNN, Melissa and Denise didn't see any of those signs during their trip to the pond. That's likely because blue-green algae is harder to notice. It typically appears as "debris" floating in the water and can cover large areas without standing out.
When dogs drink the water or lick themselves clean after swimming in algae-infested water, they're immediately at risk. There is no cure for being poisoned by blue-green algae, and almost all dogs that are exposed die soon after. In some cases, dogs die within 15 minutes.
With Abby, Izzy, and Harpo gone, Melissa and Denise are making it their mission to make sure their tragedy doesn't happen to anyone else. They want to put signs up by the pond they visited and educate the public about what to look for.
Blue-green algae is found in freshwater lakes, ponds, streams, and brackish water. The blooms float, but they're not always easy to spot. Sometimes they look like someone spilled pea soup in the water, and other times they're smaller and not as bright. They float in all areas of the water and tend to accumulate near shorelines. According to Melissa on Facebook, the Westies didn't even swim in the water. They played in the mud by the shoreline, and they still died from algae poisoning.
Abby, Izzy, and Harper died in North Carolina, but this toxic algae is found in most areas of the country. There have also been cases in Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon.
We encourage all dog owners to use this interactive map of active algae blooms to keep their dogs safe.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers of toxic algae.