Morgan Fleming and her husband, Patrick, said their dog Arya died Saturday after swimming in Allatoona Lake. Credit: WSB-TV

Testing ordered after couple says dog died from toxic algae in Allatoona Lake

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the waters of Allatoona Lake are being tested to determine if a toxic blue-green algae is lurking after a Cobb County couple says their dog died Saturday after going for a swim. 

News of the algae’s possible presence broke over the weekend when Morgan and Patrick Fleming say their border collie, Arya, died hours after enjoying the lake. 

The Corps said an Environmental Protection Division employee visited the lake Monday in Cartersville to take water samples to test for the presence of the algae. 

“We take public safety concerns seriously and appreciate the support from our partners at GA DNR,” said Cesar Yabor, chief of public affairs for the Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, which manages Allatoona Lake. Yabor said the federal agency is waiting on the results from the EPD.

Morgan Fleming said on her Facebook page that their border collie, Arya, died after running and splashing around in the lake.

“We lost our fun, loving, and crazy girl to what we can only assume was a lake toxin such as blue green algae,” she said in her post. “Arya, no dog will ever replace you in our hearts. We already miss you more than you could know. I hope you’re running around like a wild girl with all the other boarder (sic) collies in doggo heaven.” 

About 30 minutes into the drive home, Arya began “making weird noises” and vomited inside the couple’s car, Morgan Fleming said.

The Flemings called their veterinarian, who told them to bring the border collie in to be checked out. Arya, who couldn’t stand at that point, was rushed to an animal emergency room where she was declared brain dead, Fleming said. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cyanobacteria -- known as blue-green algae -- is naturally occurring and grows in fresh bodies of water such as lakes and ponds. It uses sunlight to make its own food and in warm, nutrient rich environments, cyanobacteria can form blooms that spread across the water’s surface. 

The blooms that can harm people, pets and livestock are called cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms, which produce toxins that can make humans and animals sick, the CDC said. 

The bacteria is also believed to be behind the deaths of three dogs belonging to Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz. Their dogs died within hours of each other after swimming in a pond in Wilmington, North Carolina, according to news station WECT

According to the EPD, signs of the bloom’s presence include water discoloration, water that looks like pea soup or spilled blue or green paint, reduced transparency, a thick mat-like spread of scums or dead fish. The toxins can affect a person’s nervous system, liver, stomach and skin. While there have not been any human deaths reported stemming from the toxins, animal deaths are more common. Animals are possibly infected with the toxins if they drink the tainted water or lick their fur after swimming in the contaminated water, the EPD said. 

The CDC says you can protect yourself from cyanobacteria blooms by not swimming, water skiing or boating in areas where the water is discolored or where you can see algae on the surface. Also, do not let pets or children play in or drink water infected with the algae. If you come in contact with water possibly containing cyanobacteria, rinse your body off with fresh water as soon as possible. 


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