A NEW campaign has been launched to raise awareness of a mystery toxin that has killed at least 13 dogs in the New Forest.
The campaign follows two new cases of dogs being taken ill, one of which had to be put down after vets lost their battle to save the much-loved family pet.
A similar outbreak began this time last year, with most of the deaths occurring in the Fritham and Fordingbridge area.
As revealed by the Daily Echo last May, vets believe the unexplained disease, which causes acute kidney failure, could be a version of Alabama Rot.
It first surfaced in the US in the 1980s and is thought to involve a toxin produced by the E. Coli bacteria.
Now the Forestry Commission has erected warning signs in car parks in the Tiptoe and Wilverley area, where the latest cases have occurred.
They stress that the poison has killed only a tiny proportion of dogs that are walked in the Forest, but urge owners to contact a vet immediately if their pet develops any of the tell-tale symptoms.
The signs say: “Dog owners are advised to look out for wounds or lesions on the limbs or face of their dog.
“Affected dogs may go on to develop signs of severe depression, loss of appetite and vomiting.
“The reported cases represent an extremely small proportion of the dogs that are exercised in the New Forest and it is likely that this syndrome is extremely rare.
“If you are a dog owner and believe your dog has been affected, please direct your enquiries to your local vet.”
It follows a similar publicity campaign mounted in other parts of the Forest after the first dog deaths were reported last year.
One of the two new cases involved Tally, a four-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier taken ill after playing in a stream near Tiptoe.
As reported in the Daily Echo last week, Tally is one of only three dogs known to have survived a brush with the mystery toxin.
Last night his owner, planning consultant Jerry Davies, 50, welcomed the Forestry Commission’s latest attempt to warn pet owners.
He said: “There’s a fine line between worrying people unnecessarily and making them aware of the risk.
“I’m not going to stop walking my dog in the Forest, but I’m going to steer him away from water and unduly wet ground because I think there’s a connection.
“There was a lot of publicity surrounding last year’s outbreak and then it all died down.
“A lot of people presumed it had gone away and anything that raises awareness following the two new cases is helpful.”