Today the Seattle Times reported that King County officials found a toxic algae bloom on the north end of Lake Washington last week.
Normally toxic algae blooms don’t form in Washington waterways until they begin to heat up in late summer and increased activity stirs up phosphorus sediments and other nutrients that the algae feed on.
In these seasonal conditions, the toxic algae blooms grow rapidly and produce microcystin, a potent liver toxin produced which can cause life-threatening health problems in both people and dogs.
The latest sample taken from the northern end of Lake Washington near Madison Park and the 520 bridge showed a concentration of microcystin of 417 (µg/L), which is astronomically higher than the state guideline of .160 (µg/L). Earlier this month officials recorded a microcystin level of 223 (µg/L) in the same spot.
The article also said that “areas designated as swim beaches and monitored by the King County’s Water and Land Resources (WLR) Division” are safe for swimming by people and animals unless there are signs warning them to stay out of the water due to toxic algae.
After enduring the hottest June on record and sweating through a week of blazing hot temperatures predicted to last through the 4th of July holiday weekend, more people and their pets will swim in lakes and streams, so if you plan to take your dog for a swim, be sure to look for signs warning you to stay out of the water.
You can also check this map which shows all the areas in Washington’s lakes and streams where microcystin levels are unsafe for people and their dogs.
Currently the only places you should stay out of the water is Lake Washington near the 520 bridge and Madison Park, Lake Bay on the Kitsap Peninsula, and Spanaway Lake.
But remember, only designated swimming areas are monitored, so if you know of a place to go that isn’t a
designated swimming area, you need to check it for toxic algae before you and your dog dive in. It’s fairly easy to spot because it’s bright green and forms near the shore.
If you think all these warnings about toxic algae are unnecessary, remember that dogs exposed to toxic algae can contract respiratory paralysis which can kill it within 30 minutes from the start of these symptoms: tremors, weakness, drooling, paralysis, muscle rigidity, involuntary urination and defecation, and seizures.
That’s why it’s critical for you to watch for warning signs and toxic algae before you or your dog go in the water. And if your dog touches toxic algae, get it to a veterinarian immediately.
So if your going in the water with your dog this summer, be alert because the record heat could create favorable conditions for record levels of toxic algae to form.