(CBS).– A North Carolina woman is warning pet owners after her three dogs died hours following a swim in a pond filled with toxic algae last week. In a series of heartbreaking posts on Facebook, she detailed how an afternoon of fun turned tragic.
Melissa Martin, a local realtor, said she went with her dogs, Abby, Harpo and Izzy, to a pond in Wilmington so they could play around. Then, when she took them home to take a bath, they began having seizures. She rushed them to the veterinarian who revealed there was nothing that could be done for them.
“At 12:08 a.m., our dogs crossed the rainbow bridge together,” Martin said. “They contracted blue-green algae poisoning and there was nothing they could do. We are gutted. I wish I could do today over. I would give anything to have one more day with them.”
She added, “The hardest thing I have ever done is hold these incredible animals and watch their lives slip away.”
After consulting with health officials, her vet said her dogs were poisoned with lethal blue-green algae — known as cyanobacteria — that resulted in her having to put them down, CBS affiliate WWAY reports.
Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms that live primarily in fresh water and salt water, at the surface and below, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They multiply and bloom when the water is warm, stagnant and rich in phosphorus and nitrogen from sources such as fertilizer runoff or septic tank overflows. Cyanobacteria blooms are usually blue-green in color.
Martin and her friends are trying to honor their memory by spreading awareness about blue-green algae. They’ve set up a fundraiser to purchase signs and erect them in front of contaminated water to prevent further pet deaths.
“By the end of this year, I plan to contact whoever I need to contact to make sure we have signs up at every body of water like this that says it’s toxic,” Martin said. “‘Cause nobody knows. Kids could get in it and it could poison them as well.”
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, toxins from cyanobacteria can impact kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, liver and nervous system of people, pets, livestock and other animals. Children and dogs are said to be the most vulnerable from the toxins.
The agency recommends keeping children and pets away from waters that appear discolored or scummy and not touching large accumulations of algae.