Dog owners be vigilent

CARMEN HOULAHAN IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 13:03 31/01/2013
Southland Times photo
CARMEN HOULAHAN/Fairfax NZ
Dr Donald Murray, of Murrays Veterinary Clinic in Mosgiel, talks to dog owner Melissa Hendry about the risks of algae after four dogs died after drinking water contaminated with toxic algae.

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A Mosgiel vet is calling for dog owners to be vigilant, as several well-loved family dogs have died from algae poisoning after swimming at the Silver Stream.

Murrays Veterinary Clinic owner Dr Donald Murray said he knew of four dogs that had died from  ingesting algae in Silver Stream, and another had almost died.

''When the first dog came in we thought it might have been sunstroke, then another dog came in with the same symptoms. It was comatose and died on the table. It made me think there was a common link between the cases. We tested it and it was positive for algae,'' Dr Murray said.

''It does not seem to have affected humans as such but I think there is potential there for a serious incident. It appears that the dogs ingest the water or lick their coats.

''It appears it is absorbed through the skin. It occurs very rapidly. They go into a coma and then into respiratory and cardiac failure.

''We have tried adrenalin and all sorts of things on them to save them but nothing has been able to save them from dying, which is unusual.''

Dogs had died after being in the water for fewer than 10 minutes, Dr Murray said.

To reduce risks, people planning on taking dogs for a walk near the river should give them a drink of water at home so they were not thirsty and less likely to drink from the river.

If dogs did get into contaminated water, owners should shampoo and rinse the dog thoroughly.

Mosgiel resident Lindsay Wilson swam in the Silver Stream once a week for the past three years with his staffordshire mastiff dog.

However, that stopped on January 5 when his dog, Knarla, died within 30 minutes of being in the water. Dr Murray diagnosed his death as poisoning from toxic algae.

''The area I was swimming had no signs so I thought it was okay,'' Mr Wilson said.

''I go down by the train bridge near the aerodrome ...  A lot of people think it's okay to swim there because there's no signs. 

''The signs are at the other end.''

Minutes after getting out of the water his dog started frothing at the mouth and then went into a coma.

Otago Regional Council resource science manager Matt Hickey said the algae in rivers like the Silver Stream was different from the algae that had appeared in Lake Waihola and the Tomahawk Lagoon before Christmas.

Those waterways have since tested clear.

Phormidium, a type of algae is found only in rivers and streams and typically forms a thick brown-black slimy algae.

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It can be highly toxic and potentially could harm animals and humans.

The council could not put signs everywhere, and if people were concerned they should not get into the water, Mr Hickey said.

- The Southland Times

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