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Dogs unsafe after more toxic algae found in Lake Austin, Lady Bird Lake, Austin officials say

Austin American-Statesman - 4/6/2021

Austin watershed officials are again warning pet owners to keep dogs away from algae spotted in Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake after toxins dangerous to the animals were detected last month.

Now that the toxin has been detected during the cooler seasons in at least four lakes, the city's Watershed Protection Department said it plans to reevaluate its monitoring program.

"The City of Austin has detected low levels of dihydroanatoxin in an algae sample taken in mid-March from Lake Austin near Mansfield Dam," city officials said in a statement Tuesday. "Trace levels were also detected in two algae samples from Lady Bird Lake."

Dihydroanatoxin is the same toxin that the Lower Colorado River Authority detected in the Highland Lakes earlier this year, and the same one found in 2019 and 2020 in Lady Bird Lake that had been linked to the deaths of several dogs.

City officials say cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are the source of the toxin and can be found in bodies of fresh water in Central Texas throughout the year. But the algae is more likely to thrive in our area as temperatures start to increase.

"The algae are more prevalent in warmer, more stagnant water, and more likely to produce toxins under these conditions," officials said. "Dogs appear particularly vulnerable to dihydroanatoxin in algae mats."

City officials are recommending that pet owners keep their dogs from ingesting or touching algae in any lakes or creeks. Owners who allow their dogs in the water do so at their own risk, officials said.

Owners should rinse dogs after contact with water to prevent them from licking algae off their fur.

"Although levels of the toxin are low, they indicate an increased risk for dogs in the water bodies," officials said.

Owners should take their dogs to a veterinarian immediately if they become sick after swimming in Lady Bird Lake, and report the illness by calling 311.

Symptoms of exposure may include:

• Excessive drooling, vomiting and diarrhea

• Foaming at the mouth

• Jaundice and hepatomegaly

• Blood in urine or dark urine

• Stumbling

• Loss of appetite

• Photosensitization in recovering animals

• Abdominal tenderness

• Progression of muscle twitches

• Respiratory paralysis

"At this time, the risk to humans appears low and people may continue to boat and fish, following COVID-19 safety measures," officials said. "However, people should avoid handling algae."

Swimming by humans has been banned in Lady Bird Lake since 1964.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Dogs unsafe after more toxic algae found in Lake Austin, Lady Bird Lake, Austin officials say


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