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3 dogs die from toxic algae poisoning within hours of playing in North Carolina pond

Two dog owners in North Carolina are speaking out after their three beloved pups died following what initially appeared to be an innocent swim in a pond, CNN reports.

Last Thursday, Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz took their three dogs, Abby, Izzy and Harpo, out on a playdate in Wilmington. Fifteen minutes after leaving the pond, however, Abby, a West Highland white terrier, experienced a seizure.

The owners rushed the three dogs to a veterinary hospital, where Izzy, another Westie, and Harpo, a 6-year-old "doodle" mix therapy dog, also began to have seizures. Tragically, all three pets died by midnight Friday, Martin said.

A veterinarian later told the two owners that the dogs had been poisoned by blue-green algae present in the pond.

"We are gutted," Martin wrote in a now-viral Facebook post. "I wish I could do today over. I would give anything to have one more day with them. Harpo and I had work to do, but now we will carry on his memory and we will make sure every standing body of water has a warning sign."

In an interview with CNN, Martin said that she did not initially see the algae or any signs warning of the toxic substance. The veterinarian subsequently told her and Mintz that what the two originally thought may have been debris from flowers was actually cyanobacteria, Martin said.

"What started out as a fun night for them has ended in the biggest loss of our lives," Martin wrote of her pets. "We need your prayers. Not sure we’re strong enough to get through this without them."

Blue-green algae frequently grow in fresh bodies of water, including lakes, canals and ponds, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). The cyanobacteria produce toxins that can damage the kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system of people, pets and livestock relatively quickly. As a result, the NCDHHS recommends that the public "keep children and pets away from waters that appear discolored or scummy."