Three dogs die from toxic algae hours after playing in North Carolina pond
© GoFundMe

A couple from North Carolina said they are “gutted” after the sudden deaths of their three dogs last week.

Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz told CNN in an interview that their pups — Abby, Izzy and Harpo — died suddenly from toxic algae after they took them to a pond in Wilmington, N.C., for a play date last Thursday. 

Martin told the news agency that Abby was the first to show visible symptoms of poisoning after she began to suffer from a seizure less than an hour after exiting the pond.

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"So I look at her and she's seizing," Martin told USA Today on Tuesday. "She's foaming at the mouth. She's hot to touch."

Martin said she brought Abby, who was a West Highland white terrier, to a veterinarian immediately after the seizure. Izzy and Harpo were also rushed to the veterinarian not far behind after they also began to show similar symptoms. 

"We sat there in shock," Martin told the newspaper. "Like 'there's no way all three of our dogs are going to die. There's no way this can happen.' " 

Within hours, each of the dogs died.

Martin said the veterinarian concluded that the culprit behind the dogs death was toxic blue-green algae.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, is known to grow in lakes and ponds and can bloom rapidly.

The department said toxins produced by the algae “can affect the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and nervous system of people, pets, livestock and other animals.” 

“Children and dogs are the most vulnerable to the effects of cyanobacterial toxins. Dogs are especially susceptible to cyanotoxins that attack the nervous system,” it said on its website. “Deaths of dogs associated with cyanobacteria have been identified in North Carolina. Inadvertently, dogs can also alert us to possible adverse human health effects due to harmful algal blooms."

“Dogs usually become exposed to the toxins by drinking bloom waters or eating the algae,” the department added. “Algal toxins can be lethal to a dog.” 

In a Facebook post shared Friday, Martin said she and Mintz were devastated by their loss.

“They contracted blue green algae poisoning and there was nothing they could do. We are gutted. I wish I could do today over,” she continued. 

Now, Martin says she and Mintz are working to “make sure every standing body of water has a warning sign” in memory of their dogs. 

“We are now on a mission to put signs at every body of water that can have this deadly bacteria,” Martin wrote. 

A GoFundMe organized by Martin has already raised $5,045 in the past three days. Martin said “every penny raised will be used to raise awareness and get signs and information out.”