Protecting your dog from blue-green algae exposure

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A health alert for pet owners is making national headlines. Dangerous blue-green algae has been killing dogs in the Southeast, but now we're learning it's also closer to home.

Researchers have found the algae in Indiana, Michigan and in Lake Erie, near Ohio.

"I just thought it was normal bacteria, but this algae stuff is scary," dog owner Diane Lolmaugh said.

The organism has been around for centuries, and experts say warm weather and runoff are two reasons it could be more present in regional lakes.

"That toxic element that some blue-green algae produce when it is ingested, it doesn't take very much to actually cause the liver to go into a sudden liver failure, sometimes within hours, but certainly within a day or so," said Dr. David Visser of the Center for Animal Health.

Not all algae is poisonous, according to Visser, but it's best to stay out of water where blooms are found.

"Just avoid water that has the discoloration or that has this foaming plume of this algae on the surface, and then you are certainly safe," he added.

Here are signs to watch for in your pet:
- Vomiting
- Diarrhea
- Bloody, black or tarry stool
- Seizures or disorientation

If your pet has been exposed, quickly remove them from the water, try to prevent licking, wash them thoroughly with fresh water and contact your vet if necessary.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management found seven lakes with high levels of blue-green algae, including Worster Lake in Potato Creek State Park.

The department says swimming and boating is still OK for humans, but pets should not be in the water where algae is present.