Toxic algae growth responsible for dog deaths across the state, linked to global warming

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Toxic algae growth responsible for dog deaths across the state, linked to global warming

German Shepherd swims in an algae bloom in Swepsonville, NC.

German Shepherd swims in an algae bloom in Swepsonville, NC.

Photos by Ildar Sagdejev

German Shepherd swims in an algae bloom in Swepsonville, NC.

Photos by Ildar Sagdejev

Photos by Ildar Sagdejev

German Shepherd swims in an algae bloom in Swepsonville, NC.

Madeline Vessey, Editorials Editor

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The health of three dogs rapidly deteriorated after taking a swim in a pond in Wilmington, N.C. Within 15 minutes of getting out of the water, the first dog began to develop unusual symptoms and by midnight all three dogs had passed away. The owner’s veterinarian explained that the dogs had likely passed away due to blue-green algae poisoning acquired from the pond they had visited earlier in the day.  

Blooms of this blue-green algae are predicted to accumulate in bodies of water over the summer, due to warmer weather and stagnant waters. There is currently no cure for animals impacted by it. According to Blue Cross for Pets, animals commonly develop the poisoning from drinking the water or by licking the algae off their fur and can exhibit symptoms within minutes of exposure. 

Closer to home, the same blue-green algae, known as Cyanobacteria, was found at Bond Lake in Cary in May of 2019. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these toxic algae blooms will only increase in magnitude and distribution over the next few years due to climate change. 

While these types of algae develop naturally in both fresh and salt-water, favorable conditions such as warm waters, sunlight and high nutrient levels encourage the growth of algae blooms. Additionally, impacts of climate change may also promote the growth of these harmful algae.

Algae naturally grows more in warmer waters during the summer, but as climate change develops and the climate gets warmer, Cyanobacteria will have a distinct advantage over other harmless algae growth. Additionally, the warmer water will increase the magnitude of algae floating and swimming up to the surface of the water, increasing the chances of algae blooms.

The increase in temperatures that can also be linked to climate change. The change in salinity will promote further evaporation of lake and pond water which will lower water levels and increase water salinity. This also encourages the growth of harmful algae blooms such as the blue-green algae killing animals in Wilmington. 

As seen by the recent impacts of Hurricane Dorian, extreme weather events can have a drastic impact on human and animal ecosystems and the increased rainfall associated with these events will increase the transportation of nutrients and allow for more algae growth in bodies of water. 

The release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, due to detrimental human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, will also stimulate the growth of the blue-green algae in local areas. Its presence in the atmosphere will allow the blue-green algae to directly utilize the carbon dioxide and increase the manifestation of toxic algae blooms in coastal and non-coastal bodies of water.

Not only is global warming a threat to the environments around us, it could also be responsible for the algae that is killing man’s best friend. If we cannot figure out a way to revert back or stabilize current temperatures, what happened to the dogs in Wilmington will occur more and more frequently across the state, even in Lake Johnson.

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