Russian River toxic algae kills dog

SONOMA (BCN) —  Sonoma County health officials are warning the public to keep animals out of the Russian River this weekend following the death last week of a dog that ingested a toxin produced by blue-green algae on a river trip.

“We are warning people to keep animals away from the river and away from isolated side pools of water and algae on the shore,” said Dr. Karen Holbrook, Sonoma County Deputy Public Health Officer.

The Department of Health Services today posted 26 signs in English and Spanish at recreational beaches along the river warning visitors that harmful blue-green algae may be present.

Holbrook said the blue-green algae may be present in algar mats, shallow pools and along the banks of the river.

That signs state children and pets are at the greatest risk and no animals are allowed in or around the river.”We have not detected any danger in the water in the river or at big beach sites,” Holbrook said. “We didn’t get a flag raised to change our precautions until the dog passed away,” she said.

Anatoxin-a was present in the system of the dog that died Aug. 29 on a river trip from Memorial Beach in Healdsburg to Wohler Bridge in Forestville, Holbrook said.

The toxin affects the nervous system and causes rapid death in animals. Holbrook said earlier algae tests found both Anatoxin-a and microcystin toxins in algar mats but not in the mid-river water itself. Dogs are more vulnerable to ingesting toxins in algae because they swallow more water and their behavior is harder to control, health officials said.

Visitors are also warned not to drink river water or use it for cooking, keep children away from algae, avoid isolated shallow pools and clean fish well and safely discard guts.

The Department of Health Services issued a previous warning about blue-green algae on Aug. 21, but the golden retriever’s death has heightened the alert. Some social media sites are claiming three dogs have died from exposure from the toxin in blue-green algae.

The Department of Health Services said it’s the first time blue-green algae has been found in the Russian River.

The Department of Health Services is asking veterinarians to report sick animals who were exposed to algae by calling (707) 565-4567 or 4566.

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