Be Wary Where Your Dog Swims

Following the recent death of a 2-year-old Nebraska boy who was playing in the water where a “No swimming” sign was displayed, there’s been a debate about what a “No Swimming” sign means. For dog owners, it means: Do not let your dogs drink the water.

That is true in Nebraska (where there are no alligators save for zoos) and Florida. In both areas, the problem can be toxic blue-green algae. Signs of toxic bloom include dead fish, waterfowl, and other animals as well as a sudden sickness or death of a cat or dog. In humans, skin rashes can be an indicator. There is one recorded death. One article finds that dogs are often the “sentinels” of toxic bloom findings. “MPCA officials recommend people and dogs stay out of water that looks like green paint, but Heiskary notes that toxins can linger even after the scum disappears.” According to the owner of one dog, the water was “100 percent crystal clear” but her dog still died from the neurotoxin found in blue-green algae.

Toxic algae bloom is widespread. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as a nutrient pollution and finds this pollution in all 50 states.  The toxic algae occurs in slow-moving water, where enough sunlight and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus). The EPA states, algal blooms can:

  • Produce extremely dangerous toxins that can sicken or kill people and animals
  • Create dead zones in the water
  • Raise treatment costs for drinking water
  • Hurt industries that depend on clean water

The EPA advises that in every day life, by proper fertilizer usage, pet waste disposal, using phosphate-free detergent, everyone can help reduce nutrient pollution that leads to toxic algae blooms.

For information about your state, visit the EPA website.


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