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People and their pets should stay away from algae in the Highland Lakes, warned the Lower Colorado River Authority, after a dog died following a swim in Lake Travis on July 4. Toxic algae exposure in Lake Travis near Point Venture could be the cause of death, according to the LCRA, which is awaiting test results. 

“LCRA strongly recommends that people and pets avoid all contact with algae in the Highland Lakes,” reads a July 5 notice from the authority. “Algal material can begin producing toxins at any time without a change in appearance, and ingesting the toxins can be dangerous and potentially even fatal to animals.”

Algae is not always dangerous, according to the LCRA, but with excessive sunlight, warmer or stagnate water, and an increase in nutrients in the water from fertilizers or lawn waste, a massive growth can produce higher-than-normal levels of toxins that can be dangerous to humans and animals if touched or ingested.

Swimmers should avoid stagnant, shallow water with obviously large amounts of algae. Pet owners should prevent their animals from ingesting lake water or swimming in shallow areas. If children or pets do swim in shallow lake water, wash them off immediately afterward.

Symptoms of toxic algae exposure include skin or eye irritation, rashes, diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, fainting, dizziness, or numbness in the extremities. Small children and animals are particularly at risk and can exhibit symptoms within minutes of exposure.

The most effective ways to reduce algae are to physically remove it and avoid fueling it with fertilizer and lawn waste. 

The LCRA does not recommend using chemicals to kill algae during a bloom because it can drastically increase the levels of toxicity as the algae dies.

dakota@thepicayune.com

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