Toxic algae warnings in Hawke's Bay after dog's death in Tukituki River

The Phormidium algae growing on this rock often produces a toxin that can kills dogs in just half an hour if eaten.
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The Phormidium algae growing on this rock often produces a toxin that can kills dogs in just half an hour if eaten.

Deadly algae is the likely cause of a Hawke's Bay dog's death, with the council worried another animals – or possibly small children – could be next.

The cause of death is still to be confirmed, but the dog died after visiting the Tukituki River's Horseshoe Bend, off Kahuranaki Rd.

The council, which monitors popular rivers at certain spots for toxic algae, cautions that other deaths may follow.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council and District Health Board have issued a joint warning for people to watch out for black or white mats of algae. People who come into contact with the poisonous type of algae can develop vomiting, diarrhoea, skin rashes, numbness or tingling. Children are particularly susceptible.

Anyone who fell ill after swimming in a river should seek medical attention immediately, the health board warned.

One particular type of algae, known as Phormidium, is behind the warning. The plant, which grows in brown-black mats when in the water, produces a toxin that can kill in just a few hours if ingested.

Warm, sunny summers, low river flows and excess nutrients in waters provide ideal growing conditions for this algae and other non-toxic species.

The mats remain a health risk even when they wash to the side of the river and dry out, often turning white. When drying, they produce a musty smell appealing to dogs, so the pets are often drawn to eat them.

Dog owners were advised to keep their animals on retractable leashes. Bringing a safe supply of fresh water to the riverside for them to drink was another sensible precaution, Hawke's Bay vet Stuart Badger said.

"Give your dog a good drink of water before they run around, so they are less tempted to drink from the river."

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He also said to keep an eye out for any vomiting, diarrhoea or neurological symptoms such as shaking. Should a dog develop any of these symptoms, urgent veterinary attention was required, he said.

People were advised to check rivers for signs of the mats, and avoid entering the water if any evidence of this type of algae was spotted.

 - Stuff

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