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City advises people and pets to use caution at Virginia Lake


Residents are being advised to keep their pets, and themselves, away from the water at Virginia Lake due to a potentially toxic algae bloom. The City of Reno said the order has been issued until further notice and signs will be posted in both English and Spanish around the lake’s perimeter.

“The combined drought-induced low-water condition, high phosphorus levels, and extremely low flow/circulation has created the ideal conditions for a blue-green algae bloom,” city officials said in a statement. Water usually comes into the lake from the Truckee River and into the Cochran Ditch, but that’s not happening right now based on the Truckee’s low water level.

Blue-green algae at Virginia Lake on Aug. 27, 2021 in Reno, Nev. Image: City of Reno

The algae bloom promotes the growth of cyanotoxins, which in concentration can lead to significant health impacts to people as well as pets, fish, birds and other mammals.

The American Kennel Club warns that dogs are more susceptible to poisoning from such algae blooms because of their likelihood to ingest the water while playing in it. Signs of blue-green algae ingestion by dogs can show up within minutes and include diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, weakness, confusion, seizures and breathing difficulty.

In the past several years a number of dogs across the country have died of liver failure caused by ingestion of cyanotoxins in affected bodies of water.

For more information about cyanobacteria/cyanotoxins, visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.

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