Pet owners warned about deadly neurotoxin found in Russian River

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ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Saturday, September 5, 2015
Pet owners warned about deadly neurotoxin found in Russian River
Pet owners have been warned about a neurotoxin fatal to dogs that's been found in the Russian River in Sonoma County.

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (KGO) -- Warning signs are going up along the Russian River in Sonoma County Friday night and people and their pets need to be careful.

That's because a dog died after swimming in the water north of Wohler Bridge after apparently ingesting toxic algae.

It is a neurotoxin produced by algae in stagnant water and warm conditions and its common name is "Very Fast Death."

It is not particularly dangerous to humans but the health department has issued a warning for dog owners to keep their dogs out of the water this Labor Day weekend.

Gene Mooney will not be letting her dog Millie anywhere near the water this weekend.

Investigators found small amounts of the neurotoxin downriver from Healdsburg. "Luckily, it was in one of the most remote beaches you can only get to if you rent a canoe," Russian River keeper Don McEnhill said.

McEnhill took samples of water on Friday, looking for conditions that might produce the deadly algae.

He sees improvement, little threat to humans, right now. However, humans are not as susceptible as dogs.

"Take a week off the water with your dog. Personally, I have two dogs. We're avoiding the water this weekend," McEnhill said.

"The stuff that I read, it's really toxic algae and something to stay away from," Santa Rosa resident Kim Detiveaux said.

This comes, unfortunately, during one of the busiest weekends of the year.

A local raft outfitter told ABC7 News that, despite cancellations, she remains fully booked and has warned people to stay away if they bring dogs.

Experts say this is more about exercising common sense - use it if you happen to see some algae.

"And it is safe to walk through. There's algae at the edge of the river, you're not going to have to worry about walking through it, just don't suck your neighbor's toes after you do," McEnhill.