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Blue-Green Algae Advisory: When in Doubt, Stay Out!

A combination of low water levels and high temperatures has caused blue-green algae blooms to develop in some bodies of water in our region. Blue-green algae is dangerous because the toxins released by these blooms can cause liver and kidney failure in dogs. We urge you to stay alert this summer as you enjoy time outdoors with your pets! If your dog becomes ill after swimming in or drinking water from a natural source, call NWNVH at 503-227-6047 as soon as possible.

Poisoning from these toxic blooms is most likely to occur on warm, sunny days when the blooms are prevalent and surface scum is present. Due to the species of cyanobacteria that tends to bloom in the Pacific Northwest, toxins to watch out for in Oregon include microcystin, a hepatotoxin, and anatoxin, which is a neurotoxin.

Most bodies of water in Oregon are not officially monitored, which means that it’s up to citizens to be on the lookout for hallmark features of toxic blue-green algae. Indications of blue-green algae include a water surface that is:

  • foamy
  • scummy
  • thick like paint
  • pea-green, blue-green, brownish red, or bright green in color

The current advisories in our area are:

Precautionary Advisory

  • Lake Billy Chinook: The Oregon Health Authority has issued a precautionary seasonal recreational use health advisory for Lake Billy Chinook due to harmful algae blooms that routinely develop in the lake. Watch children and pets to be sure they are not swallowing water or coming in contact with cyanobacterial blooms washed up on the shore or dried on rocks. Lake Billy Chinook is located about 12 miles west of Madras, in Jefferson County. The advisory will remain in effect through Nov. 1, 2019.

Permanent Advisory

  • South Umpqua River: Avoid water in pools of bedrock along the South Umpqua River and Lawson Bar. A permanent recreational use advisory for the South Umpqua River and mainstem Umpqua River from Lawson Bar down to Elkton has been in place since 2012. Beginning in 2009, multiple dog deaths resulted from the animals drinking the water and licking toxins from potholes along the riverside.

Life-threatening symptoms from these toxins often appear suddenly and develop rapidly. Death may occur within as little as a few hours, but generally within 4 to 24 hours. To read more about signs of poisoning and treatment options, click here.