'Biggest loss': Dogs' play day at pond turns into tragedy

Melissa Buttigieg
News Reporter

What started off as a fun day chasing the ball and rolling in the mud for three pups turned to heartbreak for a pet owner whose three dogs died from algae poisoning.

Melissa Martin took her two west Highland terriers Abby and Izzy to play at a pond, along with therapy dog Harpo on Thursday night at Wilmington, North Carolina.

But within 15 minutes of leaving, Abby suffered a seizure, so the group rushed to the vet.

During the short time it took the dogs and their owner to arrived at the vet, all three dogs had began to seize, with Harpo also showing signs of liver failure.

Abby and Izzy chasing the ball. Both died of poisoning from the algae in the pond. Source: Melissa Martin / Facebook

Their conditions rapidly deteriorated, and within hours all three dogs had died, a devastated Ms Martin said.

“What started out as a fun night for them has ended in the biggest loss of our lives,” she Martin wrote on Facebook Friday.

“At 12:08 AM, our dogs crossed the rainbow bridge together,” she wrote.

A vet blamed the deaths on poisoning by toxic blue-green algae, which had contaminated the pond.

Blue-green algae is a microscopic bacteria found in ponds, freshwater lakes, and other salty water ecosystems. The toxins the substance produces can be poisonous to people and animals that come into contact with it.

All three dogs had seizures after leaving the North Carolina pond, and later died. Source: Melissa Martin / Facebook

“They contracted blue green algae poisoning and there was nothing [the vets] could do. We are gutted,” Ms Martin wrote on Facebook.

“I wish I could do today over. I would give anything to have one more day with them.”

Ms Martin is using the tragedy to raise awareness to other pet owners to be on the lookout for toxic algae, to potentially save other puppy lives.

On a GoFundMe page to raise awareness she added: “Abby, Izzy, and Harpo were just having fun one night playing in the water however unknown to anyone, this particular body of water was contaminated with a lethal blue-green algae that kills dogs within hours upon contact.

Harpo showed signs of liver failure shortly after swimming in the contaminated pond. Source: Melissa Martin / Facebook

Australia’s toxic algae contamination risks

The risk of algae poisoning is also a concern at Australian lakes and ponds, with pet owners also urged to watch out for dangers here, too.

Victorian animal hospital Lort Smith issued a warning to keep an eye out for deadly blue-green algae following poisonings locally.

Kelpie cross blue heeler named Buddy, and Australian cattle dog cross fawn dalmatian named Logan, were lucky to be saved after coming into contact with the deadly substance.

The pair arrived at the Lort Smith clinic in April after swimming in a pond on their property which has been contaminated by blue-green algae, vets told Australian dog ownership website Australian Dog Lover.

All three dogs, Abby, Izzy, and Harpo died within a day of playing at a pond contaminated with blue-green algae. Source: Go Fund Me

Lort Smith vets said it was hard to tell which blue-green algae was toxic and advised pet owners to treat it all as potentially poisonous.

If a pet comes in contact with the water, immediate treatment is needed to remove the toxins, as it can become fatal within 24 hours.

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