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Veterinarian confirms dogs died from heat stroke, not toxins in Shelby Farms Park water

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A veterinarian confirmed that two dogs who died shortly after visiting The Outback Off-Leash Area of Shelby Farms Park died from heat stroke, and not from toxic algae in the water in the off-leash area, park officials said.

Local veterinarians confirmed the dogs' deaths last week, and testing began for the water in the park. But a veterinarian confirmed Monday that the dogs died from heat stroke, according to a Shelby Farms Park spokesperson.

Local veterinarians also have not reported any cases of toxin exposure in their clinics.

Water testing began two weeks before the dogs' deaths were confirmed, when national reports of canine deaths from toxic water circulated, a park spokesperson said. Testing has shown toxin levels in the ponds of The Outback area range from non-detectable to non-harmful, according to EPA standards, which are standards based on human contact thresholds.

"Even though the presence of toxin levels is low, dogs may be more susceptible to adverse effects because they can ingest the toxins both by drinking water or by licking their fur after swimming or wading," a release from park officials said.

Park officials said the ponds in The Outback area will still remain closed out of caution until further notice. While the ponds are closed, the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy will continue testing the water and learn more about cases of toxic algae in water from across the country.

Before testing began, a Facebook post warned that two dogs were killed by toxic algae after swimming at Shelby Farms Park. It was shared and re-posted thousands of times before the woman who posted it deleted it.

A release from Shelby Farms Park officials said testing did find a presence of blue-green algae in the ponds, but this type of algae is not uncommon or unexpected and is part of the natural lake ecosystem. Blue-green algae is common for a lake in the summer months.

Based on varying conditions, blue-green algae can produce toxins, but it does not always. Levels of those toxins fluctuate when they are produced.

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