NIEA confirms toxic blue green algae in 12 locations across NI in last month

The owner of a pet dog poisoned to death by toxic blue green algae in Co Fermanagh says she is ' devastated' and 'heartbroken'.

Little Mollie, a Yorkshire Terrier cross, died two weeks ago after coming into contact with the deadly bacteria on the shoreline of Lough Melvin.

Her heartbroken owner Amanda Heslop told UTV: "To go out that morning for a normal walk and come back and within 45 minutes of being down here she was dead.

"I could feel her start to shake and when I looked at her face her eyes were fixated and she wasn't looking me.

"Mollie is dying."

It's understood 7 dogs have now died in Northern Ireland - 6 at the Co Fermanagh beauty spot.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency, which is in charge of monitoring algae levels, said: "From the 19 May to 15 June 2023, NIEA received 20 reports of suspected algae blooms.

"Blue-green algae was confirmed at 12 locations.

"Due to the natural occurrence and large number of water bodies where algal blooms may occur, NIEA does not have the resources to monitor and sample every algal bloom in Northern Ireland."

Amanda said she was aware of the dangers in water and would be careful if her dogs entered the lough, but Mollie didn't go for a swim that day.

"I've never seen before it up in the bank.

"Locals who have lived here all their life have never known it to come up onto the shoreline and I think that's the problem."

Warning signs have now been put up around the Lough Melvin, but some feel it's too little too late.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging pet owners to take steps to keep their dogs safe when walking near freshwater bodies this summer, as the warm weather brings with it an increased risk of toxic blue-green algae growth.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, is a group of bacteria that can contain dangerous toxins which can be harmful and potentially fatal to pets, livestock and birds if ingested even in small quantities.

The algae may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of water like lakes and ponds.

Dogs can swallow it by drinking water from an affected lake, river or pond or while licking their fur after going for a swim.

It’s also possible for dogs to come into contact with it even if they don’t go for a paddle, as toxic blooms may be blown to the edges of water bodies.

The warning comes after several recent news reports of algal bloom sightings in lakes, ponds of rivers around the UK, including the Lake District and Shetland islands.

Confirmed sightings are identified by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s (UKCEH) Bloomin’ Algae app, which encourages people to submit details and photos if they suspect they have spotted it.

Top tips for pet owners

  • Look out for any warning signs near water bodies.

  • Keep pets on a lead and by your side around water bodies known or suspected to have a blue-green algal bloom – don’t let pets swim in it or drink from it.

  • If your dog has been swimming outside, wash its coat thoroughly with clean water afterwards.

  • Seek emergency veterinary treatment if you’re concerned your pet may have ingested toxic algae.

  • Report sightings of suspected blue-green algae with a photograph via the Bloomin’ Algae app. You can also set up notifications for confirmed sightings in your area.

  • There are other ways to help your dog keep cool in the warmer weather: paddling pools can give them somewhere to cool off and you should always make sure they have access to clean water and shade if outdoors.

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