VETS have launched a transatlantic attempt to solve the mystery surrounding the deaths of at least eight dogs in the New Forest.

They are hoping experts in the United States will be able to identify a mystery toxin that causes acute kidney failure in its victims.

All the dogs died after being exercised in the Latchmore Brook area, which was part of a bombing range during the Second World War.

They are thought to have been killed by a water or soil-born toxin that has been disturbed, possibly by recent heavy rain.

The animals were treated by vets in the Fordingbridge and Verwood areas.

Some were later referred to a specialist veterinary practice near Winchester for a second opinion.

Staff at Anderson Moores in Poles Lane, Hursley, are consulting experts in America in a bid to unlock the puzzle.

Tissue samples from two of the pets have been sent to a UK laboratory and a Texas centre specialising in renal problems in dogs.

David Walker, one of the vets at Anderson Moores, said: “We’ve seen five of the dogs affected.

“We managed to save one but there was nothing we could do for the others.

“At this stage we don’t know what’s responsible.

“It could be something in the environment or it could be something that we’re not aware of.”

Mr Walker revealed that similar clusters had occurred in America.

“Despite extensive testing nothing was ever found.

“It could have been something in the environment that later dissipated, but that’s pure speculation,” he said.

Vets believe the toxin entered its victims’ bloodstream after the animals cut their legs or paws.

Louise Beal, of North Gorley, lost her springer spaniel Bruno a week after exercising him near Ogdens car park.

Bruno suffered a cut paw, which Mrs Beal treated with disinfectant before taking him to the Linwood Veterinary Group at Verwood two days later.

Bruno was given antibiotics but his condition deteriorated rapidly.

He was hooked up to a drip and taken to Anderson Moores in the family car, but all efforts to save him failed.

Mrs Beal said: “We just want to save other people having to go through this – it’s been the most awful week.”

Dog walkers are being advised to avoid the area.

Those that continue to visit Latchmore Brook are being urged to wash their animals’ paws as soon as they get home and examine them thoroughly for cuts or other injuries.

Mr Walker said pet owners should seek veterinary advice immediately if they had any concerns about their dogs.

Members of the New Forest Dog Owners’ Group (NFDOG) have consulted vets in the Forest and alerted their members.

Committee member Sandy Gatward said: “NFDOG understands that symptoms usually comprise a sore foot, maybe with lesions.

“Even if they appear minor or insignificant, please don’t delay in taking your dog to a vet.”