How to keep your pet safe from toxic algae

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LANSING, MI (WILX) -- Recently, several dogs have died after swimming in waters affected with algae blooms--which has caused many pet owners to panic on social media.

Although experts say these algae blooms are more common in the south, that doesn't mean we're in the clear in Michigan.

It's called toxic algae and it can be found all over the United States, including right here in Mid-Michigan. The algae can turn a fun time at the park with Fido into a tragedy.

"They can come very quickly...you could have a clear lake then in a matter of days all of a sudden you get this algal bloom," Gary Kohlhepp, Water Resources Division of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) said.

Algae appearing in lakes, rivers, and ponds is natural, and usually appears in the August and September months. It happens when there isn't a lot of wind and water becomes stagnant. But its the blue-green toxic algae can produce toxins that can be harmful to pets.

"One, there's a hazard if dogs go into water that has it they can certainly get exposed to the harmful bacteria that's in the water and the main concern is the bacteria can make them very sick and it can cause GI Upset, neurological symptoms, and liver failure and that can be fatal," Dr. Amanda Houk, of Willoughby Veterinary Hospital said.

If you're worried about your pet, it's pretty easy to spot. It usually is bright green or a metallic-blueish-green. If your dog does swim in it, it's important to give them a bath right away and look for symptoms like seizures, vomiting, staggering, fatigue, or just not acting like themselves.

But experts say if there is any question, don't take the risk.

"It is a relatively small number of lakes compared to all of the lakes we have in the state where we are finding the algal toxins and blooms. Our motto, what we typically tell people is when in doubt, stay out. So if you're not sure, you're better off not exposing your pet to it or not coming into contact with yourself," Kohlhepp said.

EGLE also encourages people to let them know where and when they spot algae so that they can try and come test the water.

Humans can also be affected by the algae blooms. Symptoms typically include a skin rash, throat irritation, or or eye irritation.

To contact EGLE about water testing, click here.

For more information about the toxic algae, click here.

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