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'Increased risk' for dog-killing algae expands to Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin

Austin has raised its level of risk to "increased risk" for potentially dog-killing algae in Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin after harmful bacteria was found in Lake Travis.


Cyanotoxins are forms of harmful blue-green algae that can flourish in blooms in standing bodies of water, and they've been harmful to dogs in both lakes in the past as well as Lake Travis.

According to staff from the Watershed Protection Department, algae has been observed in Lady Bird Lake and will have samples tested by the University of Texas at Austin. A sample was also taken from Lake Austin and sent in last week. Results for both will be posted here.

Last year, at least five dogs died after swimming in Lady Bird Lake in the summer of 2019. Earlier this year, one golden retriever was reported dead after swimming in nearby Lake Travis. The LRCA has also reported four dogs who got sick after swimming in the area.

Although exact times have not been determined, experts have found that harmful algae blooms can occur in warmer times of the year, Ph.D. Environmental Scientist Senior Brent Bellinger said. Blooms of the harmful algae can cause the deaths of livestock and dogs, and people may also suffer health issues after being exposed, though it's more rare. Symptoms in dogs may include fatigue, excessive salivating, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.

Dog owners should avoid areas with visible algae mats and stagnant areas of the lakes, and dogs should not touch or ingest algae. Rinsing dogs after they swim can also help to avoid them licking algae from their fur.

If a dog reports any telltale symptoms, dog owners should consult a vet immediately and report the illness to 3-1-1.

While swimming for dogs should be met with caution, humans can still boat and fish without risk.

For more information on Lady Bird Lake, visit AustinTexas.gov/Algae. For algal information on Lake Travis and other Highland Lakes, click here.

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