ATTLEBORO — National news reports of dogs dying after swimming in ponds covered with blue-green algae have set off alarm bells for pet owners everywhere.
According to the reports, three dogs died in Wilmington, N.C., after cooling off in a pond covered with the toxic plants. Another is reported to have died after swimming in a lake in Georgia.
Conservation Agent Nick Wyllie said Tuesday that the algae is common in this area as well, but he hasn’t seen any in city ponds this summer — so far.
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any.
“If it’s around, I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said.
Ponds subject to “nutrient loading,” warm temperatures and lack of rain often produce algae blooms, Wyllie said.
So the conditions are right.
Wyllie said the best protection is to keep pets out of the water if there is any question at all about whether the algae is present.
It usually presents itself as green scum on the surface.
“If you question the water source, don’t go in,” he said.
Wyllie said there was a bloom on Lees Pond in South Attleboro Veterans Memorial Park a few years ago that he and former conservation agent Tara Martin removed with rakes from a boat.
People as well as dogs and other animals can be harmed by the algae, he said.
Ingestion of water contaminated by it is especially harmful.
“People and animals should stay away from it at all costs,” Wyllie said.
Dr. Kiko Bracker of Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston agreed.
“Cyanobacteria (blue/green algae) can be very dangerous,” she told The Sun Chronicle in an email. “At Angell we generally recommend that dog owners not allow their dogs to wade into ponds in which there is a green film on top. Typically a dog will have to drink the water to get very sick, but the bacteria can enter through open wounds, or cause contact irritation of the skin or the eyes.”
In July of last year there was an algae bloom in Turner Reservoir in Seekonk that prompted warnings from boards of health in that town and neighboring Rhode Island.
The state’s Department of Public Health has published a list of known algae blooms in the communities of Plymouth, Newton, Westport and Barnstable.
DPH advises people to “prevent contact and ingestion by kids and pets.”
“Dogs can get very ill and even die from licking algae off of their fur. Rinse dogs off immediately if they come into contact with an algae bloom,” the department says on its website.
For more information about algae blooms go to https://www.mass.gov/info-details/harmful-algae-blooms-in-fresh-water-bodies or https://www.mass.gov/guides/cyanobacterial-harmful-algal-blooms-cyanohabs-water .