Cyanobacteria in Stillhouse Hollow Lake kills local pet

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BELL COUNTY, Texas – A local woman is mourning the death of her dog after a trip to Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

Dog owner Lauren Birdwell went to Chalk Ride Falls Park with her dog Autumn on Saturday morning. Autumn played in the water and drank it. As she got out of the water, Autumn started acting funny.

“Literally no less than, like, 30 seconds later, it was like, her legs gave out on her, and she fell over,” Birdwell said. “I looked at my friend and I was like, ‘This doesn’t seem okay.'”

Autumn started seizing, her heart rate dropped, and she had trouble breathing.

“It changed in a matter of what seemed like seconds,” Birdwell said. “One second she was running around smiling, playing with the other dogs, seemed okay, and then all of a sudden, she wasn’t.”

Autumn had to be euthanized because of her condition.

The veterinarian and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspect the cause to be an aquatic organism that, in some cases, can produce toxins potentially life-threatening to animals and people.

The animal doesn’t just have to drink the water. If they get it on their fur and lick themselves, it can be just as dangerous.

Baylor Professor of Biology Thad Scott said these type of cyanobacteria are very common. They just typically don’t bloom in enough magnitude to produce toxins. Also, even when they do bloom, they don’t always produce toxins.

“They’re everywhere in all of our waters all the time,” Scott said.

To produce the toxins, the bacteria must grow quick enough to bloom. They bloom in water that is warm, slow-moving, and rich in nutrients.

Birdwell urges pet owners to be cautious of water, “Find another way to bring your dog to water over the summer to cool them down rather than some of these natural or manmade lakes.”

Birdwell and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is urging pet owners to be careful around bodies of water. Chalk Ridge Falls Park is temporarily closed, and lake staff is working on sampling the water to determine whether it was cyanobacteria.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also recommends for people and pets to stay out of water with visible-colored surface films, scum layers and/or algae mats. It is also best to avoid stagnant areas where there is little-to-no water movement, and where the water has a bad odor.

Also, they recommend controlling your pet on a six foot or less leash.

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