Dog Dies After Playing in the Park, Portland Residents Concerned About Toxic Algae

Dog that Drown

On September 1, Nutmeg the dog was at the peak of her happiness playing with her ball at Sellwood Riverfront Park. She was getting in and out of the Willamette River fetching her toy, only to die a sudden death a few hours later. Nutmeg’s owner Curtis Loeb, who lives in Southeast Portland, described her as a sweet and affectionate dog. 

The rescue organization that arranged the dog adoption the year before were worried whether Nutmeg swallowed hazardous toxins from the river during her play in the park. The news about her death immediately spread on social networks — the organization’s post got over 8,700 shares on Facebook alone.

The Harmful Toxins

The blue-green algae blooming in the river contains cyanotoxins that are hazardous not only to animals but to humans as well. In the past ten years, a few dogs died after they drank water which was poisoned with deadly toxins. Loeb, however, stated that blood tests have not yet confirmed that cyanotoxin poisoning was the cause of Nutmeg’s death. The vet who checked the dog out confirmed that she seems to have swallowed some kind of toxin.

As Loeb explained, there wasn’t anything strange about the water, and the dog was always in the proximity of her family. They weren’t alone in the park that day. According to him, there were approximately a hundred dogs, as well as people at the river. 

Issuing the Warning

Portland Parks & Recreation representative, Mark Ross, alleged that state workers contacted the bureau on Friday and demanded that the city officials place warning signs at the park. Until that point, no one was aware of Nutmeg the dog’s death. As Ross disclosed, the city is in charge of maintaining the park close to the river. However, all issues related to the river are under Oregon State’s supervision.

On Sunday, signs warning about dog safety could be seen in the park and along the river bank. The signs written in English and Spanish warned about the hazards of toxic algae discovered in the river. The signs were coated to endure the rain and even showers. Two passers-by and one dog were present in the park, strolling along the bank, but did not dare go into the river. 

The State and city authorities are considering posting warning signs in all parks that have access to the Willamette River.

The Sad Incident

Curtis and Megan Loeb and their two kids fostered Nutmeg via Oregon Weimaraner Rescue back in October. They think she was around three years old and looked like a German Shorthaired Pointer. The dog was quite playful and adored playing in the water. They visited Sellwood Riverfront Park near the Sellwood Bridge numerous times before the incident.

As September 1 saw nice and sunny weather, Curtis Loeb and his two kids cycled to the Riverfront Park with their dog. It was an opportunity for her to cool off and work out a little. Having spent two hours at the park, the dog began to wane. Also, she looked rather exhausted. The Loebs decided to return home, so they walked toward the bikes together with Nutmeg.

The dog, however, walked more and more slowly. She had difficulty walking and standing. At one point, she lay on the ground. Meanwhile, Loeb’s daughter phoned her mother Megan to give them a lift and take the poor dog to the vet.   

No Chance of Recovery

It was evident that Nutmeg was in terrible shape. Her health state deteriorated quickly. The family took her to the nearby vet. When they arrived, she neither looked good nor responded to stimuli.

Even though she was breathing, medical interventions and therapies could not improve her state. The staff at the vet clinic noticed that her limbs were stiff. They informed the family she might have had a seizure. 

The vet took blood samples, but they did not show the presence of cyanotoxins. The dog’s symptoms, however, did indicate some sort of poisoning with some toxins found in the water. It was evident that she could not recover.

Previous Incidents

Back in 2013, the Veterinary Medical Association from Oregon published a warning about hazards following the death of a dog after bathing in the river downstream from a reservoir in Lane County. The Association advised staying away from the water.

Ten years ago, Oregon State vets affirmed that a husky died after playing in the waters of Douglas County. The cause of death was poisoning with toxins discovered in blue-green algae. The experts confirmed that this case was linked with a minimum of three dog deaths. These cases drove Oregon health officials to publish a permanent warning to dog owners to stay away from certain locations at Lower Umpqua River.

Four other warnings were issued throughout the State of Oregon, including the one published on September 3 related to North Tenmile Lake located in Coos County.

Contaminated Water

According to experts, the polluted water is foamy, slimy, and off-colored. It is of bluish and greenish hue and is contaminated with dangerous algae. It is of utmost importance to avoid contact with such water. 

In case a pet comes in touch with such contaminated water, it is essential to wash them with clean and fresh water immediately. If they ingest it, they should be observed for any signs of diseases like dizziness or weakness. If owners notice any symptoms, they should instantly seek veterinary help and advice.

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