DOG owners are being warned a killer disease that has claimed the lives of a number of pets in the New Forest could be extending its reach further into Dorset.
More than 20 dogs have lost their lives to Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy, also known as New Forest Disease and Alabama Rot, since 2012.
Vet Siobhan Buswell, of the Lynwood Veterinary Group in Wareham, sadly lost her own dog – a six-year-old labrador called Kirk – to the condition having only walked her pet in woods at Puddletown and Wareham.
She says she has also heard unconfirmed reports of another labrador that walked in the woods at Puddletown that had to be euthanised after showing signs of the disease while cases have been reported in Beaminster, Upton, Christchurch and Canford Heath.
Siobhan wants other dog owners in the area to be aware so they can be on the lookout for symptoms. She said: “The number of dogs affected overall is very small and cases are only reported between the months of December and March.
“Things to look out for are wounds on your dog’s face or legs. There is often no explanation for the injury.
“Affected dogs then become very depressed, tired and lose their appetite and can have episodes of vomiting.”
Siobhan added: “We are not certain of the exact cause of this disease but a toxin that goes on to cause acute kidney failure is suspected.
“It is also thought that this toxin is found in soil and/or rotting vegetation in woodland areas. “There is no evidence to suggest that this illness is passed from dog to dog.
“Two dogs can go on the same walk and one can be affected while the other is absolutely fine.”
Siobhan said her dog Kirk was the sort of dog that would dig and root in woodland areas and would carry a tennis ball that he would try and bury and dig up again.
She said: “It is possible that a dog that does this sort of thing while out on a walk is at increased risk of this disease. My advice would be to be aware.
“If you notice a wound, particularly if you dog is a bit lethargic as well, then seek veterinary attention early on.
“Your vet may advise a blood test to check for any evidence of kidney damage.
“Early recognition and perhaps avoidance of woodland walks with certain dogs between December and March are important in keeping our dogs as safe as possible in the advent of this worrisome disease.”
A list of places where dogs have been affected by Alabama Rot in the United Kingdom can be found online at forestry.gov.uk