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Testing for harmful algae begins at Lady Bird Lake as summer heat brings increased risk

At least five dogs died after swimming in Lady Bird Lake in the summer of 2019.

AUSTIN, Texas — As the summer heat begins to rise across Central Texas, so does the risk for harmful algae at Austin's Lady Bird Lake. As a result, the Watershed Protection Department has started monitoring four areas on the popular lake weekly.

The four locations being monitored include:

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On July 9, staff members collected samples from all of these locations, except the mouth of Barton Creek because they did not find any concerning algae. Those tests will be sent to the University of Texas where researchers will "identify the algae species, perform DNA fingerprinting and test for toxins." The test results should be available next week, and a summary of those results will be posted online.

According to the Watershed Protection Department, harmful algae occurs when cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, produces toxins. Warmer temperatures, low flow through the lake and high levels of nutrients make harmful algae more likely.

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In the summer of 2019, at least five dogs died after swimming in Lady Bird Lake. The City said dogs are particularly vulnerable to the harmful algae and recommend dog owners be cautious about allowing their dogs in the lake this summer and fall. The City of Austin recommends dog owners do the following:

  • Check AustinTexas.gov/algae for the latest information before taking their dogs to the lake
  • Avoid areas with floating mats of algae or stagnant areas of the lake
  • Rinse dogs after contact with Lady Bird Lake to help prevent them from licking algae off their fur

If a dog becomes sick with the following symptoms after swimming in Lady Bird Lake, they should be taken to the vet immediately:

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

The risk to people appears to be low, according to the City.

WATCH: Keeping your dog safe from toxic algae

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