Three beloved dogs die from toxic algae poisoning within hours of playing in pond

Two dog owners in North Carolina are speaking out after their three beloved pups died following what initially appeared to be an innocent swim in a pond, CNN reports. 

Last Thursday, Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz took their three dogs, Abby, Izzy and Harpo, out on a playdate in Wilmington. Fifteen minutes after leaving the pond, however, Abby, a West Highland white terrier, experienced a seizure.

The owners rushed the three dogs to a veterinary hospital, where Izzy, another Westie, and Harpo, a 6-year-old “doodle” mix therapy dog, also began to have seizures. Tragically, all three pets died by midnight Friday, Martin said.  

A veterinarian later told the two owners that the dogs had been poisoned by blue-green algae present in the pond. 

“We are gutted,” Martin wrote in a now-viral Facebook post. “I wish I could do today over. I would give anything to have one more day with them. Harpo and I had work to do, but now we will carry on his memory and we will make sure every standing body of water has a warning sign.” 

In an interview with CNN, Martin said that she did not initially see the algae or any signs warning of the toxic substance. The veterinarian subsequently told her and Mintz that what the two originally thought may have been debris from flowers was actually cyanobacteria, Martin said.

17 PHOTOSBest dog breeds for kidsSee GalleryBest dog breeds for kids

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

"The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a wonderful family pet; a gentle, calm dog, who is happy to be combed and brushed," says Dr. Emmett. "This breed is, however, less enthusiastic about games, such as tug of war, and rough-and-tumble play. King Charles Spaniels are a good match for a more urban lifestyle and a sensitive child." What does that wagging tail mean?


Golden Retriever

"The Golden Retriever is one of the most well-known dogs because of their gentle, caring temperaments. They are able to lounge around the house for an afternoon or take a hike through the woods," says Pete Lands, DVM, Director of Emergency and Critical Care at Saint Francis Veterinary Center. Goldens are very bright and easy to train. They’re also stoic when it comes to kids. "While they may not like it, Golden Retrievers tend to be apathetic to young kids pulling on their ears or tugging at their tails. This makes them one of the best family dogs you can find," he adds.


Labrador Retriever 

They look large-and-in-charge, but Labs are famously child-friendly. "The Labrador Retriever is a reliable family pet," says Dr. Emmett. "This breed has an insatiable appetite for games and play and is well suited for an active outdoor lifestyle and a child who likes to run, throw balls, and play Frisbee." These are the most popular breed dogs in every state.



Cute as a button, sweet, and gentle, these pack animals thrive on companionship. According to the American Kennel Club, these charmers make excellent family dogs because they are loving by nature, love to play, and have goofy personalities. If you want a dog who wants to be with people, this is a great breed for your family. Pass Beagles up, however, if your house is always empty during the day.


Irish Setter

Does your family love a good group jog or a game of beach Frisbee? If so, an Irish Setter will be the perfect fit for you. Regal to look at and energetic beyond words, this breed grows to be large, around 50 to 70 pounds and has a long lifespan, so they can grow up with your kids. Irish Setters make great companions, are wonderful with children, and have lively dispositions. They also love to play with toys and balls. Don’t miss these secrets dog trainers won’t tell you.


French Bulldog

Frenchies, as they are affectionately known, are diminutive in size, but big in personality. Known for their affectionate natures and silly "bat" ears, French Bulldogs were bred to be companion dogs. The perfect family dog for apartment dwellers, Frenchies do well in small spaces, and love being around kids. French bulldogs also love getting dressed up for Halloween.



Make a Boxer part of your family, and you will never feel unprotected again. Fiercely loyal and protective of those who love them, these energetic, medium-sized dogs have calm dispositions, but love to play. They need lots of exercise, but beware of driving them too hard in hot weather. Like all squish-faced (Brachycephalic) dogs, they tend to overheat. Keep your pooch safe all summer long with these 28 warm-weather health tips for dogs.


Cocker Spaniel

There’s a definite possibility that Cocker Spaniels think they are people. They’re gentle, loving, very smart, love being around children, and tend to always put themselves in the middle of the action. They also make great therapy dogs and may be a good fit for an anxious or special needs child. Their beautiful, floppy ears make them prone to ear infections, so keeping them clean and groomed is essential.


Bichon Frise

These little bundles of low-shedding fur are some of the friendliest dogs on the planet. Sweet, affectionate, and playful, the Bichon Frise is a fantastic playmate for energetic children. Their small size makes them a great city dog, provided you give them lots of walks. According to Animal Planet, they’re loyal to a fault and do best with consistent training and moderate amounts of activity. These are the dog breeds most compatible with your (or your child’s) Zodiac sign.



Rough Collies are known for their majestic, flowing coats, while smooth Collies have shorter coats. Rough or smooth, Collies make great family pets. (However, rough collies require more grooming.) This breed is incredibly intelligent and likes nothing better than to engage in activity with the children who love them. They’re fast learners, loyal to their families, and protective. Just ask Lassie.



Have an allergic child? According to Health, Poodles might just be the ticket for you. While no dog is completely hypoallergenic, Poodles seem to come close, because they appear to produce fewer allergens. They also come in three sizes—standard, miniature, and toy—and an abundance of colors. These adorable goofballs are super-smart, easy to train, adapt well to new situations, and love kids. Here’s your official guide to picking the best dog breed for you.



An intentional mix of Poodles and Labrador Retrievers, Labradoodles are as adorable as their name. A medium-shedder, Labradoodles were originally bred to be even-keeled and empathetic, so they could be trained as guide dogs for visually-impaired people. This breed couldn’t be more affectionate, or more adorable. Note that they need lots of exercise and tend to get along great with other dogs.



This Instagram-darling brings with it major cuddle-factor. Their cutie-patooty smiling faces and cozying-up tendencies make Pugs a popular favorite for children who prefer gentle play to roughhousing. These playful pups were bred to be lap dogsand adore being around people. They’re clever, quiet, and make great family pets.



Long-haired or short, Chihuahuas are the tiniest of all dog breeds. They tend to adore children and are very loyal to their families. Chihuahuas love the indoors and are not fond of very cold weather, perhaps because they’re thought to have originated in Mexico. They’re easy to train and love the lap of the person who loves them best. Watch out for these secret signs that your dog is mad at you.



Chugs are a specific breed comprised of Pug and Chihuahua ancestry. Many have the best characteristics of both popular breeds, making them great pets for children. According to Pet Guide, Chugs are a designer dog with characteristics that vary from liter to liter. Like their forebears, most will make good family dogs. They’re loyal, affectionate, intelligent, and love to play.



This tiny charmer is the national dog of Cuba. They have exuberant personalities and adore people of all ages. Havanese dogs are very social and outgoing. A loving breed, they also enjoy playing games. They’re a toy breed, so not a great fit for rough-and-tumble play, but they’re perfect for families who are looking for a silly, outgoing friend for their child. Read on for the 50 secrets your pup won’t tell you.


Bull Terrier

Bull Terriers and Miniature Bull Terriers make fantastic pets for older kids. They are sweet beyond belief, very protective, and very trainable. The American Kennel Club calls them mischievous, playful, and charming. Known for their silly, comical antics, and crowd-pleasing behavior, Bull Terriers need lots of exercise and lots of love.


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“What started out as a fun night for them has ended in the biggest loss of our lives,” Martin wrote of her pets. “We need your prayers. Not sure we’re strong enough to get through this without them.”

Blue-green algae frequently grow in fresh bodies of water, including lakes, canals and ponds, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). The cyanobacteria produce toxins that can damage the kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system of people, pets and livestock relatively quickly. As a result, the NCDHHS recommends that the public “keep children and pets away from waters that appear discolored or scummy.”

RELATED: Five signs your dog might be depressed: 5 PHOTOS5 signs your dog might be depressedSee Gallery5 signs your dog might be depressed

Low Energy

As with humans, depression in dogs is often caused by changes in serotonin levels. This manifests in lethargy and what may appear to be laziness. If your dog quickly goes from loving walks and leaping at any opportunity to fetch a tennis ball to showing disinterest in his favorite activities, he may be down in the dumps. Don’t brush this off as lazy dog behavior (unless of course, you own a basset hound, in which case Netflix and chill is very much the status quo).

Change in Eating Habits

Canines live for meal time. PetCareRx, a pet pharmacy that deals with nearly every canine medication on the planet, states dogs who are feeling low typically eat less or show only mild interest in their food. This symptom can be easier to spot since—hello!—there’s tangible evidence left over after dinner; so pay attention to these habits.

Change in sleeping habits

Again, lethargy that turns into 24/7 naptime should ring alarm bells. According to Stanley Coren, PhD, who has written almost a dozen books on dog behavior, a canine retreating to his bed or snoozing instead of playing is often an indicator something isn’t right. This could certainly be a sign your pup has hurt himself physically, but pain is often paired with yelping or a change in movement, not sleep. If nothing on the surface looks wrong, your dog could definitely be feeling depressed.

Anxious or obsessive behavior

While some breeds are more anxious and alert than others (hello, Boston terriers), any dog suddenly fixating on a certain behavior could be exhibiting symptoms of depression. Often chewing constantly on a single paw or nail can indicate dogs are upset or feeling low. If your typically friendly Goldendoodle stops greeting you at the door and starts hiding in the living room, something is definitely off internally.


While aggression is rarer when it comes to depressed dogs, it can happen. Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, and if a pup lets that anxiety take over, it can come out as scary, mean behavior. On the other hand, some pet experts like Iain Booth, founder of VetUK, believe dogs who feel ignored will act out for attention. A combination of these factors can make for a very moody pup.

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