Published September 20, 2009, 12:00 AM

Dog exposed to toxic algae in Minnesota lake dies

MINNEAPOLIS — Until her death last weekend — likely from exposure to toxic blue-green algae while swimming in a Minnesota lake — Sady the black lab was Colin and Sarah Peltier’s way of remembering Sarah’s younger brother after he was killed in Iraq.

By: Elizabeth Dunbar, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Until her death last weekend — likely from exposure to toxic blue-green algae while swimming in a Minnesota lake — Sady the black lab was Colin and Sarah Peltier’s way of remembering Sarah’s younger brother after he was killed in Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Robert Posivio gave Sady to the couple as a wedding gift just over four years ago. Pasivio, 22, was killed less than a year later when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb.

“That dog was what we had left of him,” Colin Peltier, who took Sady to work with him every day, said late Friday. “That was the hardest part, knowing we lost that.”

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said Sady was the first dog known probably to die from exposure to the algae in the state this year. The algae can produce toxins sometimes deadly to animals if ingested.

The Peltiers, of Cottonwood, took Sady when they visited Sarah’s parents last weekend on Fox Lake near Sherburn, about 57 miles east of Worthing­ton. Sady played in the water Sunday and went for a pontoon boat ride with her family, but she suddenly lost energy, then started having muscle tremors.

“We tried to rush her to a vet in Windom, but she died before we got there,” Colin Peltier said.

The symptoms were consistent with other blue-green algae cases, and water samples from Fox Lake showed algae that looked like it produced toxins, said Matt Lindon, an MPCA water quality specialist. Test results are pending.

“[The dog] basically had a nervous system shutdown, including seizures,” Lindon said.

Blue-green algae blooms are most common in warm weather when there’s been a lack of rain. Minnesota weather this year provided average conditions for producing the blooms on lakes. The blooms usually go away when the weather cools in September, Lindon said.

The MPCA has received complaints this year about sick dogs, but the last deaths occurred in 2004 and 2007.

Human deaths from blue-green algae are rare, though exposure to it can cause skin irritations and nausea. Young children are most at risk.

Lindon said officials are trying to prevent problems by warning people to keep away from suspicious-looking algae blooms and by getting people involved in efforts to reduce the levels of nutrients in lakes by preventing storm water runoff.

Peltier said he noticed a film of algae on Fox Lake’s shoreline, but he didn’t know about the dangers of blue-green algae.

“It’s sad, because had I known, there would be no way we’d be having this conversation,” he said. “I look at this as a possibility to save some other animal out there.”

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