HOPATCONG, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The same type of bacteria that has shut down swimming at several New Jersey lakes this summer has now been linked to the deaths of three dogs in North Carolina.

North Carolina resident Melissa Martin took her dogs to swim in a pond near her Wilmington neighborhood last week.

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“We just brought our dogs here to have a good time,” she said. “We lost them within three hours.”

Martin says after their swim, the dogs started seizing. She rushed them to the vet, but it was too late.

“They got into something called blue-green algae, we’ve never even heard of, and it took their lives,” she said.

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Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, is the same toxic algae bloom that tested at dangerously high levels this summer in several New Jersey lakes, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reports.

“There are different strains of it, so you don’t know if we have the same exact strains here, but that’s why you have to take precaution,” Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said. “When you see three dogs dying in a very short period of time, it should send out an alarm bell to pet owners everywhere that they should make sure their pets are protected and they stay out of these polluted waters.”

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Touching or ingesting the toxic algae can cause skin rash, digestive issues, eye infections and be even more harmful to pets.

Janice Hill and her dog, Bailey, heeded the Department of Environmental Protection advisory against swimming in Lake Hopatcong and other affected lakes.

“I try to walk her as far away from the edge as possible. She loves to swim, but I wouldn’t let her go in right now,” Hill said.

A harmful algae bloom kept swimmers out of New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong during the summer of 2019. (Credit: CBS2)

Warning signs are posted, but some jet skiers, like Scott Sherrer, are risking it.

Sherrer: “We’ve all been out on the wave runner every day.”
Bauman: “Are you worried about the algae bloom?”
Sherrer: “Absolutely not … I’ve been in here for weeks and weeks and weeks. Nothing. No problems whatsoever.”

“No, it’s real, and it’s a concern and something we need to take very carefully,” Tittel said. “If you touch the water, you better clean yourself off.”

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The CDC says if your pet swims in water with toxic algae bloom, immediately rinse them off with fresh water, and if you think your pet has swallowed the contaminated water, bring them to a vet or call poison control.