Toxic algae that killed several dogs across the country is in Colorado lakes and ponds, so keep an eye on your pup when you're around bodies of water.

Several lakes and ponds across Colorado are or have been closed due to blue-green algae bloom. The latest to be affected is Prospect Lake in Colorado Springs where around 500 fish died and a water sample tested positive for the algae. Windsor Lake had been closed in July due to the same issue, but it has since reopened as the algae has reduced to safe levels. 

"The algae levels will decline as part of the natural process. How long that will take it hard to determine," said a statement by the City of Colorado Springs, adding that swimming, bathing, paddle boarding, boating of any kind, water activities like tubing and water skiing, and pets are not allowed in Prospect Lake at this time. 

Blue-green algae is naturally occurring in Colorado, but it multiplies quickly when conditions include sustained hot weather, stagnant water, and polluted stormwater runoff. 

"These conditions result in too much nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus in the water. This causes algae to grow faster than the ecosystem can handle. The increased algae harms water quality. It also decreases the amount of oxygen available to animals living in the water," said Colorado Springs officials. 

blue green algae

Courtesy of the Town of Windsor.

When this type of bacteria multiplies and "blooms," it can leave a visible film of scum, often blue-green in color, that makes water ruddy, giving you a visual warning of potential issues in the water. 

Unfortunately, blue-green algae isn't always visible, and several dogs across the nation that swam in what seemed like clean water have died due to exposure. The heartbreaking story shared by Melissa Martin of North Carolina has made the news recently, among others.  

In humans, toxic algae (not just blue-green algae) can cause skin irritation or rashes, blisters around the mouth and nose, asthma, nausea. cramping, diarrhea and vomiting, headaches, sore throat, fever, muscle, joint pain, and in severe cases, liver damage. It is important to note that there have been no reported human deaths associated with harmful algal blooms. 

Here are a few things to practice to avoid possible contact with toxic algae, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Avoid entering or playing in bodies of water that:

  • Smell bad
  • Look discolored
  • Have foam, scum, or algal mats on the surface
  • Contain or are near dead fish or other dead animals (for example, do not enter a body of water if dead fish have washed up on its shore or beach)

Blue-green algae is extremely toxic to dogs, and they can die within hours of ingestion. Take these precautions to keep your pet safe:

  • Do not let pets eat algae, get in the water, or go on the beach or shoreline
  • Rinse pets off with tap water after they have been in a lake, river, or pond; do not let them lick their fur until they have been rinsed.
  • Seek veterinary care immediately if your pet has consumed or licked algae on its fur after swimming or playing in water that has an algal bloom.

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.