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Traces of blue-green algae found in Little Spokane River after 3 dogs died

The presence of blue-green algae does not give a clear answer about whether it was the cause of the dogs’ deaths but it doesn't rule it out, state officials said.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Traces of blue-green algae were found in samples taken from the Little Spokane River this week following the deaths of three dogs who swam there, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology.

The three dogs who swam in the Little Spokane River died 20 minutes after they came inside to dry off, the Chattaroy family said. Colton Bridges, one of the dogs' owners, said his three hunting dogs were in good health and swam in the river regularly with no problem. 

"They were just happy, loving dogs...they want to always jump on our bed," Bridges said.

The Department of Ecology said the level of blue-green algae found in the water is not a level that would prompt a closure but it does mean cyanobacteria is producing a toxin in the water. Cyanobacteria is also referred to as blue-green algae. 

The department is still waiting on additional results. A spokesperson said the presence of blue-green algae does not give a clear answer about whether it  was the cause of the dogs’ deaths but it doesn't rule it out.

RELATED: 'They were happy, loving dogs': Three dogs die after swimming in Little Spokane River

Meanwhile, pet health experts from Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine say blue-green algae is severely harmful to pets. 

"One of the things that's important is if your dog gets into water that looks funny to you, some dogs are exposed by licking themselves. So if you see if they're a funny color or have something on them, you will want to brush them off as fast as you can so they won't groom the material off of them," Dr. Beth Davidow said. 

In most cases of blue-green algae poisoning, dogs are sicker for much longer, Davidow said. She said one study found 60% of dogs who were diagnosed with blue-green algae poisoning died from it. 

The only way to really determine the cause of a dog's death is through a postmortem exam.