THE mystery surrounding a spate of dog deaths in the New Forest deepened today after it was revealed that similar cases have occurred elsewhere in the UK.
As reported, 12 dogs have already died of acute kidney failure after being exercised on heathland in the National Park.
Now two dogs owned by the chairman of the Worcestershire Gun Dog Society, Steve Smith, have died after suffering renal failure following a shoot near the Worcestershire-Gloucestershire border.
The animals were treated by vets at the Martin and Carr practice in Pershore, Worcestershire.
They contacted specialists in America, who said the symptoms bore a strong resemblance to a disease in greyhounds known as Alabama Rot, which is caused by a rare form of E. Coli bacteria.
Similar cases have also been reported in Herefordshire and Surrey – but experts are still no nearer to pinpointing the cause.
In the New Forest 12 dogs have died of acute kidney failure after running on the heathland and cutting their legs or paws, allowing a deadly toxin to enter their bloodstream.
Almost all the cases have occured at Latchmore Brook, part of a Second World War bombing range that was used to test new weapons.
The site is near a former gunpowder factory, sparking speculation that dangerous chemicals may have left a deadly legacy that has only just emerged. But the most recent case occurred several miles away at Burley.
No other animal species appears to have been affected by the toxin, which has yet to be identified.
As reported in the Daily Echo, the first deaths occurred in December. Tissue samples were sent to a Texas laboratory that specialises in investigating cases of renal failure in dogs but experts failed to solve the puzzle.
The only Forest dog known to have survived the toxin is Squibby, a Jack Russell owned by Henry Richardson and his wife Marie-Anne.
Squibby suffered a swollen paw after going for a run near Latchmore Brook and spent nine days on a drip.
New Forest District Council, one of the organisations investigating the outbreak, says no new cases have been reported in the area since April 2.
“It is still not known what is responsible for the recent dog deaths. It could be something in the environment or it may be something not related to the Forest,” said a spokesman.
“The number of cases is a small proportion of the dogs walked in the area every day and the instances are not isolated to the Forest.
“Owners are asked to be vigilant and call their vet if they have any concerns about their dogs.”