Toxic algae: 'Our dogs died so others are warned'

Toxic algae: 'Our dogs died so others are warned' »Play Video
Toxic algae in Siltcoos Lake in 2007.

EUGENE, Ore. -- Blue green algae shows up in lakes, rivers and reservoirs across Oregon every summer.

Sometimes the blooms are an inconvenience as the public is advised to stay out of the water.

Sometimes the algae turns deadly: Tests confirmed at least one of the four dogs that died after visiting Elk Creek in Douglas County died from the toxic algae. The substance, detected in the creek after the dogs died, is suspected in the other three deaths.

Porter Cable (at left) and Kuta Ku (above). Tests confirmed toxic algae killed Kuta Ku.

This summer, the state issued advisories warning people to stay out of 16 different bodies of water in the state because of harmful algae. The algae blooms and then dies, release dangerous neuro-toxins that can kill.

Blue green algae is visibly unmistakable, but even clear water can carry dangers. At Dexter Reservoir in Lane County, the water was clear -- and visitors had no idea a health advisory had been in effect since Aug. 13. Warning signs were posted, but the signs are in the parking lot 50 yards from shore.

In Douglas County, tests revealed neuro-toxins from algae in pools of standing water at Elk Creek a few steps from the Umpqua River. The state didn't test the water until after dogs started dying.

State officials say there are too many bodies of water and not enough resources to regularly test all bodies of water for algae.

Instead, they rely on observations -- and, in the case of Elk Creek, family tragedies. Shay Casey lost two dogs back in August, including the one that tested positive for the algae toxins.

"If our dogs died so others are warned, it makes it a bit easier to take," she told KVAL News on Friday, "but just a bit, we miss them so much."

You can take steps to protect yourself and your pets: Before you get into a lake, river or creek, look around for any posted warning signs. Then inspect the water. If it doesn't look right, avoid it.