Shelby Farms Park says dogs died of heat stroke, not algae in pond water

Shelby Farms Park algae test results return after dog deaths

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Signs reading “Lake Closed” have been placed around the Outback Off-Leash Area in Shelby Farms Park, but Tuesday morning, WMC Action News 5 spoke to dog owners who say their dogs are going for a swim.

"I called all my dog friends to come over and they were so happy. We stayed about three hours,” said dog owner Sandra Frost.

Frost says her dogs have been swimming in these waters since they were puppies. She’s relieved to hear Shelby Farms Park released its latest water testing results Tuesday. The results came after park officials confirmed two dogs died after playing in the park.

Shelby Farms testing lake water after deaths of two dogs

"We were able to talk to a veterinarian who confirmed that the dogs passed away due to heat stroke and not exposure to toxic algae,” said Rebecca Dailey with Shelby Farms Parks Conservancy.

A social media post originally claimed the dogs died from exposure to toxic algae in a Shelby Farms lake.

Park officials say tests revealed toxin levels are present but range from non-detectable to non-harmful.

"This happens every year in parks all across the country. This year it’s just been particularly hot,” said Dailey.

Heat can contribute to the presence of the blue-green algae, which can but does not always produce toxins.

“The thing with the toxins is it affects them within 15 minutes,” said Dr. Angie Zinkus. “It also can affect the central nervous system. Heat stroke, you can have a dog that’s exposed and 12 hours later they start showing signs.”

Rumors swirl on social media about toxic algae in Shelby County

Zinkus says it’s important for dog owners to be aware of the signs of heat stroke. They include excessive panting, lying down and vomiting. Zinkus also says ponds heat up and can contribute to heat stroke.

"A lot of dogs, even little puppies will keep going and going and going, and so it’s our job to stop them because they don’t know what heat stroke is,” said Zinkus.

As for Frost, she’s thankful things are squared away.

“I’m not concerned now at all. I’m thankful that we can swim in the lakes again,” said Frost.

Shelby Farms Park officials say they began testing before receiving reports of the dogs that died. They’ll continue to test regularly and say when the weather gets cooler the presence of algae will start to die down.

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