City closes Red Bud Isle as dog deaths, algae prompt concern

At least two dogs have died after swimming in the lake, officials say

August 07, 2019 - 4:32 pm

AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- Swimming in Lady Bird Lake is illegal for humans, and now the city is asking you to keep your pets out of the water - at least for now.

Austin Parks officials say they've closed Red Bud Isle to the public as of Wednesday afternoon. Officials say that's where the largest clumps of algae are being seen, with up to 40% of the water surface being covered.

The specific algae is capable of releasing a neurotoxin, which can be harmful to pets and even people if a sufficient quantity of water or algae is ingested. At least two dogs have died after swimming in the lake, officials said, although they cannot confirm the cause of either death.

Other areas of the lake with low water flow are also seeing a higher abundance of the algae, along with shorelines.

The current algae bloom appears to be confined to algae growing on the bottom of the lake and then floating in clumps to the surface.

Officials say tests are being run to analyze the algae; those results should be available early next week. In the interim, city officials are urging the public to take precautions and not allow their pets to swim in or drink water from the lake.

Some of the symptoms that pets could exhibit if they ingest water contaminated with the neurotoxin include:

  • Excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Jaundice, hepatomegaly
  • Blood in urine or dark urine
  • Stumbling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Photosensitization in recovering animals
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Progression of muscle twitches
  • Respiratory paralysis

On the severe end, it could result in respiratory paralysis and death. Symptoms will likely appear within minutes or hours of exposure.

Officials say they have no reason to believe boating is unsafe. Human swimming in Lady Bird Lake is illegal; the degree of risk to human exposure, such as through accidental swallowing of lake water, cannot be known until the tests results are available and analyzed.

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