The dog owners, Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz, shared a Facebook post the next day, with photos of their three dogs - West Highland terriers Abby and Izzy and a larger canine named Harpo - from their time at a pond in Wilmington, just hours before all three pets died. But within 15 minutes of leaving the pond, Abby, a West Highland white terrier, began to have a seizure.
They had been exposed to blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, which was present in the lake the dogs had played in. Izzy began having a seizure upon their arrival and Harpo began seizing and showing signs of liver failure after that.
She said she didn't see any signs warning of toxic algae near the pond, which sits next to a popular walking trail.
The women didn't know that the water was filled with the lethal algae-resembling bacteria commonly known as blue green algae.
"At 12:08 a.m., our dogs crossed the rainbow bridge together", Martin said. "I would give anything to have one more day with them", Martin wrote in an August 9 public Facebook post.
"I will not stop until I make positive change", she said.
"In an effort to raise awareness about blue-green algae that claimed the lives of 3 sweet pups we want to get signs in front of all contaminated water so that this horrific incident doesn't happen to any other pet", the GoFundMe page reads. The algae blooms can produce toxins that affect people, livestock and pets that swim and drink in the contaminated water.
Health officials say children are also susceptible to being poisoned. They multiply and bloom when the water is warm, stagnant and rich in phosphorus and nitrogen from sources such as fertilizer runoff or septic tank overflows. Now, their owners say they hope their loss will educate fellow dog lovers about the unsafe blooms. The CDC recommends avoiding bodies of water that smell bad, look discolored, have scum on the surface or that contain dead fish or other animals.
Drinking from a body of water where blue-green algae lurks or licking it off fur can kill a dog within 15 minutes of exposure, according to Blue Cross for Pets, a United Kingdom animal charity.
"Between 2007-2011, thirteen states reported 67 cases of cyanobacteria toxin-related illness in dogs to CDC".