Eau Claire (WQOW) -- During the dog days of summer, you probably let your furry friends cool off with a quick dip in the lake. However, a local veterinarian is warning pet owners to think twice before letting their dogs dive in this time of year.
Annual algae blooms are popping up in lakes and ponds, including blue-green algae which can produce deadly toxins. Recently two dogs in Madison died after swimming in water thought to be contaminated with blue-green algae, though Dane County Health Officials said they didn't find any evidence of toxic algae.
Still local vets at the Northside Pet Hospital in Eau Claire told News 18, if it's green or if you have doubt, keep them out.
"Getting exposed to this is kind of like an airliner crash," Dr. David Menard said. "Your chances are very minuscule, but if it happens it's pretty spectacular and tragic."
He said the best way to keep your pets safe is to avoid still bodies of water, like ponds and lakes, this time of year. Though he said running water, like rivers, is just fine for a doggie dip. Dr. Menard told News 18 he's unaware of any algae "hot spots" in the Eau Claire area, but said they pop up in different lakes at about this time every year.
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Exposure to toxic algae may cause liver failure or neurological effects, like seizures, imbalance, vomiting, drooling and even death. Dr. Menard said officials can't say for sure if the Madison dogs died because of contact with blue-green algae, but their symptoms just before death, like seizures and excessive drooling, make him believe that was the case.
He said when a dog is exposed to toxic algae it effects them very quickly, typically within the hour. By the time their owners can get them to the vet, he said, it's usually too late.
"Mostly it's from the ingestion of the toxic," Dr. Menard said. "Either from drinking the water while they're swimming in it, or some cases have been thought to be the dog gets the algae on their body, on their fur, and they lick it off later."
If your dog should come in contact with toxic algae, Dr. Menard said to rinse them off right away with lots of clean water and scrub their fur with your hands, especially areas within the reach of their tongues. He said owners should also remember to wash their own hands thoroughly when they're finished.
If you're concerned your dog may have ingested toxic algae, he said try to induce vomiting and make them drink a pint of activated charcoal, which would absorb any of the toxins. He said many veterinarians and most pharmacies sell activated charcoal.