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

Image 1 of 2

City of Austin officials are advising pet owners to keep their furry friends out of Lady Bird Lake until further notice due to the potential presence of a specific algae that could be harmful to them.

This comes after the city was notified that two dogs died after swimming in the lake. The city says they cannot confirm the cause of either death. 

The city and LCRA are testing the water and algae to evaluate toxicity, which could take between two to four days. The City recommends in the meantime that pet owners take precautions and not allow their pets to swim in or drink water from the lake. 

The city says preliminary results indicate the algae is a type of blue-green algae of the genus Oscillatoria. This type can release a neurotoxin, which can be harmful to pets and people if a sufficient quantity of water or algae is ingested.

Dogs who ingest water with this toxin can have any number of symptoms, the most severe being respiratory paralysis and death. Some signs to look for within minutes of exposure include:

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

The current algae bloom appears to be confined to growing on the bottom of the lake and then floating in clumps to the surface, says the city. Scientists have taken samples of both the algae and the water nearby.

According to the city, the algae is especially prevalent near Red Bud Isle, covering around 40 percent of the water's surface in the area. It also shows up near shorelines and in areas with low water flow.

Results should be available early next week, says the city.

The city says Austin Water does not use Lady Bird Lake as a source for drinking water. The algae should not pose a threat to humans, and is not impacting the drinking water system for Austin.

The city is also reminding citizens that it is unlawful for humans to swim in Lady Bird Lake, but that they have no reason to believe that boating is unsafe. The city has also not seen any impact to aquatic species so far.