For Marge and Larry Young, a simple swim that turned into a dreadful ordeal for their dogs this summer has a partly happy ending.
The Youngs had taken three of their dogs and a dog belonging to their daughter for a swim in the Salamonie Reservoir one day last month, only to have all four animals get sick by that evening.
After a night of constant vomiting, two of the dogs died and the other two suffered severe liver problems.
Officials later said the likely culprit for the dogs’ illness came from toxins produced by blue-green algae, which has been a scourge in some lakes in Indiana in recent years.
Although two dogs died, two have fully recovered, Marge Young said, coming off their medications completely last week.
They are acting very normal now, she said.
Stella, a 2-year-old black Labrador belonging to the Youngs’ daughter, Deena, is bouncing around like a puppy, according to Marge.
Yankee, a 7-year-old yellow Labrador mix belonging to the Youngs, is his usual laid-back self.
They’re great and they’re happy, Marge Young said.
Blue-green algae – also known as cyanobacteria – began showing up in Indiana waters in 2001, according to state Department of Natural Resources officials.
Known to cause rashes, skin and eye irritations as well as nausea and death to animals or small infants, officials have been encountering more problems related to the algae in recent years.
Indiana’s severe drought conditions this summer – conditions in which blue-green alga can thrive – have also added to problems with the algae.
Blooms of the algae can often be found in stagnant water, and toxins produced by the plant can be moved by wind or currents.
Although the algae can be found in any body of water, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management only tests for high levels in state-managed lakes or reservoirs.
Testing can prove difficult, though, since some areas of a reservoir or lake can show signs of the algae while other areas do not. Private laboratories can test samples of residential lakes or other bodies of water sent them.
And while drought conditions are lessening, the Department of Natural Resources is still warning residents about the algae, which can appear green or even red or brown.
On the department’s website, a listing dated Aug. 24 shows 13 areas of lakes or reservoirs as having high levels of the algae.
On IDEM’s website, it shows that testing from Aug. 7 through Aug 21 turned up several areas in various lakes and reservoirs with high levels of the algae.
In that testing, the area near the boat ramp at Salamonie Lake was found to have the algae Aug. 7.
The Youngs, who have been animal lovers their entire lives and take in rescue dogs frequently, have taken dogs swimming for many years and had no clue about blue-green algae until this summer.
And it was a hard way to learn about the plant.
We certainly won’t take them to a location where the water is stagnant during drought time, Marge said.
Marge Young credited some tireless work by the vets who treated the animals.
She said the vets had heard of the dogs’ condition but had never seen it in Indiana.
After some research, they were able to get the dogs on the right track.
Stella and Yankee will have a blood test next month to verify they’re progressing normally.
Marge Young is hoping her encounter with blue-green algae will remind others to watch their surroundings – especially in the water.