A veterinarian confirmed the cause of deaths for the two dogs that passed away last week after swimming in a Shelby Farms pond was heat stroke, not toxic algae as previously thought.
Local veterinarians in the Memphis area have yet to report or locate any toxins in their clinics. Park officials said the ponds in the Outback Area will remain closed per cautionary reasons until further notice. While the ponds are secluded and unused, the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy will run tests on the water and gain more knowledge of any toxic algae and its effects on animals.
Dr. Robert Reid, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Memphis, said both the suspected and actual causes of death are atypical for dogs.
“Toxic algae being a contributor in dog deaths has not been something I have ran across during my studies,” Reid said. “Heat strokes in dogs are very uncommon as well, and this story includes details that are rare and out of the ordinary in terms of my typical research.”
A Facebook post surfaced warning people that two dogs were killed by toxic algae after swimming at Shelby Farms Park before any autopsy could be performed on the dogs. The post spread rapidly, causing many to believe that the park was unsanitary for their dogs and other pets to patron the area.
Reid also mentioned it is highly improbable that blue-green algae, which is more common during the summer, had any correlation to the deaths.
“Dogs sweat under their paws, but they mainly shed their fur in response to their environment,” Reid said. “From what I read about this story, the dogs that passed certainly were not affected by the blue and green algae located where they swam.”
Karyl Duddington, Director of Animal Care at the UofM, said dog owners must do the best they can to protect their dogs from going through situations like the one at Shelby Farms.
“Humidity can cause algae toxins to develop in water, and although that wasn’t the cause of death in this situation, it is good to see that Shelby Farms is closing the area off temporarily to make sure everything is safe,” Duddington said.
Duddington said it is very important for pet owners to keep pets in a safe environment. One factor that leads dogs to die in the care of their owners is accidental acts of neglect, which includes failure to provide fresh water and leaving their dogs inside houses and cars for long periods of time without supervision.
“If you take your dog out, make sure to provide them with fresh water and other resources that they need so that these incidents won’t continue to take place,” Duddington said.