The tragic death of a nine-month-old puppy from algae poisoning has triggered warnings that dog owners must be very careful about where their pets swim in rivers.
The current heatwave and lack of rain has seen water levels plummet, exposing algae to the sun which can make them extremely toxic to animals and vets are warning there is no antidote to the poisons, which are also harmful to young children.
Such is the level of public concern that two social media posts warning about the dangers have been shared more than 8,000 times in less than 24 hours.
David O’Connor, chairman of the Glen Wyvis Distillery, said his family have been left “heartbroken” after their cocker spaniel Bell consumed the algae on the banks of the River Conon.
He revealed that he collected his son from walking his two dogs on Dunglass Island near Maryburgh and “from the river to the pup dying could not have been more than 30 minutes”.
Bell first took ill at home and he said that “within five or 10 minutes she started being sick, but she was yelping at the same time”.
He added: “We rushed her straight to the Dingwall vets. By the time we got her to the vets we could tell that the pup was nearly a goner and there was nothing they could do.”
Mr O’Connor, a former Chief Superintendent with the police, immediately went back to Dunglass Island to investigate the cause of the poisoning.
He met the water bailey who told him that he refuses to walk his dogs there because of the dangers, before pointing to an area of blue-green algae saying “that will be your culprit there.”
Mr O’Connor’s son Andrew said Bell had been swimming in the same area and had her head under the water at one point when she may have consumed the algae.
One of the vets who helped treat Bell, Iain Muir, said: “In this case all the evidence pointed to blue-green algae poisoning. She had been swimming in it and had brought up what appeared to be blue-green algae.
“We know that toxins in algae are capable of killing dogs in minutes and there is no antidote. Some of it is more toxic than others and even if they recover they can sustain liver damage that is ultimately fatal.”
Mr O’Connor called for dog owners to be wary and avoid being left “heartbroken”, adding: “The family is in bits.”