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Algae Harmful To Dogs Found In Lady Bird Lake At Red Bud Isle And Festival Beach

Algae in the water at Red Bud Isle on Aug. 9, 2019.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Algae in the water at Red Bud Isle on Aug. 9, 2019.

Toxins from blue-green algae that led to the death of several dogs last year have been detected in two spots on Lady Bird Lake — Red Bud Isle and Festival Beach.

The City of Austin is recommending people not let their pets swim in or drink from Lady Bird Lake. At least five dogs died last summer after swimming in areas that contained the algae.

The city’s Watershed Protection Department began testing for toxins earlier this month with the help of UT Austin. Researchers confirmed algae samples taken on July 14 from Festival Beach and Red Bud Isle contained dihydroanatoxin, the same toxin blue-green algae produced last year.

The city says the toxin has not been released into the water, meaning exposure doesn’t occur by contact with the water but by touching or ingesting the algae itself.

If dogs become sick after swimming in Lady Bird Lake, they should be taken to a veterinarian immediately, the city says. Symptoms can include vomiting, foaming at the mouth, stumbling, loss of appetite, respiratory paralysis and more. The city also asks that people report the illness to 3-1-1.

The risk to humans appears to be low, the city says, but people should avoid touching the algae and rinse off if they fall into the water. Swimming has been banned in Lady Bird Lake since the 1960s, but people can still boat and fish, while following COVID-19 restrictions.

The city says it will keep monitoring algae in Lady Bird Lake weekly. A dashboard on its website tracks testing results: 

Got a tip? Email Marisa Charpentier at Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.

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Marisa Charpentier is KUT's assistant digital editor. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.
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