More dogs die as Loire river algae worsens

Two more dogs have died since the bacteria was officially confirmed (Image for illustration only)

More dogs have died after coming into contact with contaminated water from the Loire river in Maine-et-Loire.

The river, which was last week confirmed as containing cyanobacteria from algae - namely the oscillatoria and formidium bacteria - has been especially affected this summer, threatening the safety of normal riverside activities such as fishing, swimming, and dog-walking.

So far, 12 dogs have been reported as affected by respiratory and neurological problems after swimming in or drinking the river water, with nine dead so far across the department.

One other pet dog death in the Indre-et-Loire is also being linked to the algae, marking two more dog deaths in total since the bacteria was first confirmed last week.

Although the phenomenon has previously been seen in the Landes and in Brittany, it has reached unprecedented levels in Maine-et-Loire this year.

The algae is known to grow on rocks on river beds, and in the right weather conditions - including in high temperatures - can come to the surface and become dangerous.

Pets and other small animals are especially at risk of death, but humans in significant contact with the bacteria can also suffer from skin irritation, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, fever, angina, muscular pain, mouth sores, and liver damage.

“This phenomenon is very probably linked to the weather conditions we have seen at the moment, including drought and very low levels of water,” explained Olivier Coulon, head of water quality at the Water Agency in Loire Bretagne, speaking to France Bleu. “If this continues to get worse, we will have to put [more] surveillance tools in place.”

Locals are still being warned not to let dogs swim in or drink the water - especially stagnant water - and to keep them on a lead at all times.

Humans are advised to not fish, or eat any fish from the waters, and to avoid swimming in the river, even in areas that are usually designated as safe.

Many of the river’s usually-popular ‘beaches’ have been closed as a precaution, such as that in Rochefort-sur-Loire, and Montrichard in the Cher; and even professional fishermen are avoiding the area.

“It’s a shame as one of the pleasures of fishing is bringing your dog,” said Laurent Roussel, president of the Hunters of the Loire (Chasseurs de Loire), speaking to French newspaper Le Monde. “But we prefer not to take any risks. We love our dogs, and apparently the effects [of the algae] are terrible.”  

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