3 dogs reported dead; potential toxic algae near Richland parks suspected

KENNEWICK, Wash — The deaths of three dogs over the weekend have prompted the Benton-Franklin Health District to investigate possible toxic algae blooms near popular parks along the Columbia River.

The dogs died after swimming near Leslie Groves and Howard Amon parks, as well as upstream. Both parks are in Richland; park areas in Richland and Ringold are being investigated.

“Water samples have been collected and warning signs posted,” the health district’s statement read.

More from BFHD:

“Dogs and other animals are often exposed by drinking contaminated water, swallowing water while swimming, or licking cyanobacteria from their fur. If you suspect your pets or livestock have been exposed to a toxic algae bloom, immediately wash them off with clean water to keep them from licking the bacteria off their fur.”

Harmful blooms have been found in some Washington lakes and rivers. The district shared possible signs that your pet might have been exposed:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of coordination
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Blue-green algae can attack so quickly that you must get to a veterinarian quickly if you know your dog has been in the algae.

“While cyanobacteria blooms in rivers are rare, the hot, dry weather and low water flows can lead to algae blooms. The extreme heat this summer and lower than normal water levels can create an ideal environment for organisms to easily grow and multiply. Algae blooms can vary in appearance, but commonly look like pea soup or are blue-green or turquoise in color. Freshwater algae blooms caused by cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) are most common in lakes, but can occur in rivers and streams with warm, slow moving and stagnant waters. The toxicity of each bloom can vary and is difficult to predict. Toxicity can change from one day to the next. It isn’t possible to determine how dangerous a bloom is to people and animals by looking at it. Only testing can tell if it is dangerous.”

Here are some precautions that parents and dog owners should take when picking a spot for the little ones to swim:

  • Look for signs of toxic blooms and pay attention to signage. When in doubt, stay out!
  • Do not swim in and limit exposure to water that is under a health advisory or is listed as having a toxic algae bloom on the Washington State Department of Ecology toxic algae tracking site
  • If you swim or play in the water, you should shower with soap and water when finished
  • Call a doctor if you get sick or have these symptoms after a suspected exposure to an algae bloom
  • Report suspected toxic blooms online at the state’s toxic algae tracking site or contact BFHD

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