Editor’s note: This story was published on Sept. 2018.
A Whitby, Ont., family believes their dog became so severely ill after swimming in Lake Ontario that she died 33 hours later, and they say blue-green algae may be to blame.
Ten-year-old Micca went for a swim at Kiwanis Heydenshore Park in Whitby on Aug. 23, and by the next day, she had passed.
Monica Stark says losing their dog, Micca, has been “traumatic,” and her husband, Dale Sveinbjornson, knew something was wrong with their pet as soon as he brought the 10-year-old dog home from the beach.
“She was having to be forced out of the vehicle,” said the mother of two children. “So, he carried her out of the vehicle. She was really lethargic. She just, kind of, laid down and she didn’t move.”
After Sveinbjornson left, she said she did some digging into the water quality in Durham, and one of the staff members at the hospital pointed out there has been a presence of blue-green algae in the water throughout the region.
She tried calling and emailing the family but to no avail, so she showed up at their house the morning of Aug. 24 to warn the family of what she thinks is the cause of Micca’s symptoms. Sveinbjornson then brought her back to the hospital for more treatment, but her heart stopped a few hours later.
“Something is related to the water,” said Black. “With all the effects that happened… with the body systems shutting down, with respiratory getting involved, the heart getting involved as well as the infection… it just added up to everything that I read… with the blue-green algae.”
This type of algae are microscopic organisms that occur naturally in ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, and water contaminated with this type of algae can be harmful to humans and deadly to pets if ingested. New Brunswick health officials say toxins found in a type of blue-green algae killed three dogs in July after being in or near the Saint John River.
However, Durham’s health department said it has not received any test results from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks that show there is blue-green algae in the water at the beach where Micca last swam. The ministry is the organization that tests bodies of water and lets local health departments, including Durham, know of a suspected blue-green algal presence, and it told Global News it has been taking water samples in Whitby on Wednesday to make sure the water is blue-green-algae free.
Durham Health says while the ministry sends routine notices about E. coli levels in the water, Ontario does not routinely test for the presence of blue-green algae.
Stark hopes the health department puts up a notice as soon as it gets word the water is possibly toxic. “I don’t want this to happen to other people,” she said.
She says she had Micca, a Belgian Malinois mix, cremated. “We’re going to spread her ashes right here on the water,” she says at the beach where Micca last went swimming. “She was just such a good dog.”