Drought creates potentially toxic pond water

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. - Ponds and other small bodies of water are dipping lower this summer because of the drought. But sometimes, the little water that's left can be dangerous -- especially for animals.

Two small Johnson County lakes have signs posted, warning visitors about dangerous blue-green algae in the water. The south lake at Antioch Park and Overland Park South Lake advise people to keep their pets out of the water.

Emily Black and her puggle Wally love to walk around the lake in Antioch Park. She was shocked to find out about the danger in the water.

"I'm glad I've never let him get in," Black said.

Dr. Allen Baldridge, a veterinarian at Town and Country Equine Hospital in Miami County, said all pet owners should take caution around ponds and lakes.

"You'll see the water turn green, it'll look like there's green paint in the water or you'll even see little algae clusters," Baldridge said.

Once inside an animal's system, the algae can turn fatal within minutes. If the effects are not immediate, the animal's liver could fail within hours or days. Baldridge said symptoms include yellow mucus, vomiting, sensitivity to light and staggering.

Baldridge said while ingesting the water is often fatal, there is hope for dogs because they are more likely to drink a smaller amount. He said owners should immediately take their animals to a veterinarian.

The diagnostics lab at Kansas State University investigates cases of blue-green algae.

Dr. Deon van der Merwe said the lab is swamped with test requests. He said he investigates approximately 15 samples per day, half of which test positive for toxic levels. During a normal summer, he said the lab investigates just a couple per week.

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