This story has been updated from the original version with updated infomation about the case. Shortly after publication, The Daily Helmsman recieved confirmation that heat stroke was the cause of both dog deaths according to a veterinarian.
Shelby Farms has confirmed the death of two dogs after they swam in a pond in The Outback, the area of the park designated for people to let their dogs roam around off-leash.
Unofficial reports of the deaths appeared on Facebook when a woman made a post blaming the ponds at the park for the death of two dogs. The post has since been removed. Shelby Farms said that no one had contacted them about the death of any dogs. In order to ensure safety, park officials decided to close The Outback to allow the water to be tested.
On Aug. 13, before any reports of dogs dying had been released, Shelby Farms said in a Facebook post that they were aware of toxic algae reports in several states including Tennessee. They said that no algae had been found in the park.
Then on Aug. 21, Shelby Farms announced that two dogs died after swimming in the ponds but they have not stated an official cause.
Shelby Farms officials issued a public statement on the matter.
“We can confirm the report that two dogs died after playing in the lakes at The Outback off-leash area. We cannot confirm the causes of death at this time. The safety of all visitors, including pets, is our top priority, and extensive water testing is being performed by an outside laboratory. In addition to lab testing, we are working with multiple partners to ensure that we have the most accurate information about our lake ecosystems. Out of an abundance of caution, we are closing the lakes in The Outback.”
The original post on Facebook claimed the dogs were killed by toxic algae in the pond. A Veterinarian later confirmed the death was due to heat stoke, not blue-green algea.
After an outside test confirm there was algea in the pond Shelby Farms posted the lakes at The Outback will remain closed until further notice. Veterinarians in Memphis have started to recommend that dog owners bring their pets in for shots if they have recently been in water.
Steven Wilhelm, a microbiologist at the University of Tennessee, said the usual cause of these problems in freshwater is cyanobacteria, also known as “blue-green algae.” Cyanobacteria generally form in warmer waters that contain an abundance of nutrients.
“As population pressures result in more nutrients going into lakes and streams and warm summer temperatures, which are getting warmer and staying warmer longer, that exacerbates the problem,” Wilhelm said.
According to the Animal Poison Control Center, even small exposure to algae contaminated water, such as a few mouthfuls, can result in death for the animal. There is no current antidote available to treat toxins produced by blue-green algae. They emphasize that immediate veterinary care is needed in that situation.
Symptoms of exposure include vomiting, diarrhea, blood in stool, seizures, disorientation, difficulty breathing, and death.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has recommended that people keep their dogs on leashes to prevent them from entering the water. Experts have stated that if your dog has been exposed to toxic algae, the effects would begin to be seen within a fifteen minute window.