City of Austin: Keep your pets out of Lady Bird Lake, Barton Creek

Walking your dogs in this blazing, dry August heat is tough.  

Our pets want to cool off in the water. "We live right off of Lady Bird Lake so walking past it and making sure that she can't get in any it is a little bit stressful trying to make sure she gets exercise without potentially dying," said dog owner Kelsey Lammy. 

It's a horrific thought: but that's exactly what could happen to pets if they take a dip in Lady Bird Lake right now.  Blue-green algae is testing positive for a neurotoxin.  

According to the City, 4 dogs have died after swimming in the lake.

The issue was first detected near Red Bud Isle.  

"On Monday we pulled samples from the lake, and we've got some results back yesterday that showed we do actually have neurotoxins within algae in other places on the lake, not just Red Bud Isle," Assistant Director of Austin's Watershed Protection Department.

Hartley says neurotoxins were found at Vic Mathias Shores or Auditorium Shores, and under the pedestrian bridge over Barton Creek on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. "The water we've found does not have detectable levels of toxins, it's the algae itself," Hartley said.   

The City says all the samples contained greater amounts of neurotoxins than found the previous week. "We have put into place a protocol throughout the rest of this season in which we're going to be sampling once to twice a week," Hartley said.

Dr. John Faught with Firehouse Animal Health Centers says they've been hearing from a lot of concerned pet-owners. "We're definitely getting calls though, and we're really just trying to get people to stay away from those areas," Faught said.

If your dog ingests water with the toxin, the city says they could experience drooling, stumbling. On the severe end, respiratory paralysis and death.

"We know that the blue-green algae also can have liver toxins.  Those may show up several days later but again those are not the cases we're seeing in Austin right now, it tends to be more of the neurotoxin that's been the issue and that has been a relatively immediate thing within minutes to hours those symptoms are going to occur," Faught said.

The algae is harmful for humans as well...symptoms include rash, sores and fever.

So how do we fix this?  The City says they don't know how to safely treat or remove the algae.  They're just focusing on sampling and testing right now.  

But Hartley says it will die off as it gets cooler.  A little water flow would help too.

"A good rain now would help with the algae mats that we see on the top of the water, but we do want to make sure that people understand that the algae does come up from the bottom of the lake, so we could continue to see algae come back even if we get a good rain storm tomorrow," Hartley said.

One spot the City says is ok for human and pet swimming at their own risk: "Barking Springs" at the Barton Springs Pool spillway.  They say that water is cool, and they haven't found any toxins there.



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City officials: Keep pets out of Lady Bird Lake due to possibly harmful algae