PASADENA, Md. — Their owners simply wanted to let their three dogs cool off when they took them to swim in a pond in North Carolina.
"We just brought our dogs here to have a good time,” said Melissa Martin. “We were with other dogs. The other dog is totally fine. For some reason, ours just didn't. We lost them within three hours."
Harmful toxins from blue-green algae appear to have shut down their liver function.
They are the same deadly toxins, which formed a sheen on the surface of Lake Waterford about six weeks ago.
"Beginning in July, we started noticing green film on the water. It's not something we had seen before," said Park Ranger Matt Grey.
Testing confirmed dangerous levels of the toxins prompting the county health department to post signs warning people of the elevated levels.
A second series of tests last week showed the threat still exists here.
"When the results came back, we were still over the limit for algae in terms of parts per million in the water," said Grey.
While people aren't allowed to swim in the lake under normal circumstances, those fishing here or coming into contact with the water are instructed to wash their hands afterwards.
"We tell people, 'Dogs in the water? Not a good idea,'” said Grey. “In light of hearing the news from the Carolinas? Very scary. Very disturbing. Pets are treasured members of the family that people care very much about and the last thing we want is people endangering them without even knowing it."
Since posting the warning signs, park rangers have discovered a dead goose at the lake, but it remains unclear whether the algae toxins caused its death.
The county is hoping for more rain in the days to come to dilute the naturally-occurring algae in the water and restore a healthy balance.