A Winnipeg man is warning others to keep their pets away from algae-infested waters after he said his dog nearly died.

This past weekend Graham Thorne’s two-year-old dog, Odie, started vomiting and then went into paralysis within 20 minutes of taking a few slurps of water from Lake Winnipeg in the Lester Beach area.

“He started to yelp as if he were to have stepped on his tail for a good 30 to 40 seconds, and then he went unresponsive,” said Thorne. “That was one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through in my life.”

Thorne said he and his father went into panic mode, trying to think of the closest veterinarian. They kept the dog awake as they rushed Odie to an emergency veterinary hospital in Winnipeg.

Thorne said he saw signs warning of algae at the Lake Winnipeg beach. He said he tried to stop his dog from drinking the water, but never expected the consequences to be so serious.

“I was terrified,” said Thorne. “Anyone who’s out there taking your dog to a beach right now with any type of blue-green algae blooms, please don’t let your dogs in there.”

Manitoba Sustainable Development monitors the province’s beaches and posts algae advisory signs to let people know that blue-green algae or cyanobacteria has exceeded Manitoba’s recreational water quality objective for a cyanobacterial cell count of 100, 000 cells per/millilitre.

The advisory includes a warning to prevent pets from drinking the water.

Currently, 14 Manitoba beaches are under an algae advisory; a full list can be found online.

Lester Beach actually isn’t one of them. The province said it's the local municipality which would decide whether to post signage in this area based on provincial test results.

Winnipeg veterinarian Dr. Ron Worb said the algae blooms can produce high levels of toxins that, if ingested by people, dogs, or livestock, can cause severe life-threatening liver failure, severe neurological symptoms such as paralysis, or death from respiratory failure.

“We have seen some of it from time to time,” said Worb. “The vast majority of the blooms are not filled with high levels of toxins. This year there does appear to be a lot of blooms and I personally have seen, not a lot of life-threatening situations, but I’ve seen a number of situations where there’s been a lot of intestinal issues where dogs, in particular, have had severe vomiting, diarrhea episodes that have lasted from three days to a week that have been associated with lakes and water bodies that have had algae blooms.”

Thorne said Odie’s toxicity level was 12 times what it should be.

His dog spent four days at a veterinary hospital but has returned home and seems to be in good health.

“To watch your dog go from completely spry and happy to paralysis and rushing him to the veterinarian… just watch out for your pets please,” said Thorne. “That’s the biggest thing for me.”

“This is my best friend and I almost lost him this week.”