A VET in north Dorset is urging dog owners to be vigilant following the deaths of four pets from suspected cases of Alabama Rot.

Although it has not been confirmed through post-mortem, Dr David Scott, of Stalbridge & Marnhull Veterinary Surgery, said each dog showed “suspicious” clinical signs of the disease, namely kidney damage.

Alabama Rot (also known as CRGV) has claimed the lives of 10 dogs in Dorset since 2012. The fatality rate is high, with only 15-20 per cent of dogs surviving the disease.

Dr Scott said: “We can only diagnose Alabama Rot through a post-mortem, but in the suspected cases we’ve seen the owners have been too upset for a post-mortem.

“However, we have our suspicions. Four fatal cases were quite suspicious, while another four, non-fatal cases were less likely but still possible.

“It’s frustrating that we can’t be sure but blood tests showed liver and kidney issues. The dogs didn’t respond to treatment and became worse and worse. It’s heartbreaking to see, just awful.”

Dr Scott said the eight suspected cases were “scattered around the Stalbridge and Marnhull area”.

The most affected breed was the Springer Spaniel, however Dr Scott stressed any breed could be at risk.

The cause of Alabama Rot – known as idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV) – is currently unknown, however research into the disease is being funded by the New Forest Dog Owners Group and charity Stop Alabama Rot.

As reported earlier this month, specialist fish vet Dr Fiona Macdonald is investigating a possible link between Alabama Rot and a bacteria found in fish that causes similar symptoms.

Her theory is that an organism called Aeromonas hydrophila infects a dog’s skin, and toxins produced by the bacteria travel to the kidneys, causing failure.

The organism can be found in fresh or brackish water, common bodies of water near popular dog paths.

Alabama Rot, which is more prevalent in the winter months, causes damage to blood vessels of the skin and kidney. An early sign of the disease is unexplained redness, sores or swelling of the skin - particularly on the paws or legs - but they can also be found on the body, face, tongue or mouth.

The disease can go on to cause fatal kidney failure and signs include vomiting, reduced hunger and lethargy.

“What we don’t want is for people to stop taking their dogs out, but we suggest owners wash their dogs, especially after muddy walks,” Dr Scott said.

“Look out for skin lesions, lethargy, thirst, loss of appetite, sickness, and ring the vet if you see any of these symptoms.”

Two dogs in Dorset died from the disease last year alone.

Cocker Spaniel Maggie, from Bearwood, contracted Alabama Rot in March after being walked in Bearwood and the Canford Heath area.

Later that month, another dog died from the disease in Bournemouth. The dog had been walked in the Slades Farm and Talbot Woods area before it died.