IT killed at least 12 dogs earlier this year and struck fear into the hearts of pet owners across the New Forest.

Now a deadly toxin thought to be lurking in the soil may have claimed another victim – four months after the last confirmed case.

A three-year-old dog called Gemma has died of kidney failure, the same condition that killed the other animals.

She was taken ill after being exercised at Linwood, near Ringwood, and displayed some of the same symptoms reported by the owners of other victims.

Paw Gemma’s owner, Chris Janson, said: “It was such a shock – I just keep bursting into tears.

“We were walking around Broomley and Holly Hatch enclosures and had been going for about an hour when she lifted her paw to tell me something was wrong with it.

“My friend and I couldn’t see anything but she wouldn’t walk and I had to carry her back.”

Gemma was taken to her vet and treated her for a suspected bite but her condition failed to improve and she was transferred to specialist vets Anderson Moores, the Winchester-based practice that investigated the other dog deaths in the Forest.

However, staff were unable to save Gemma and she died just 48 hours after being taken ill.

“It was hopeless – her kidneys had completely failed,” said Mr Janson.

But Anderson Moores cast doubt on whether Gemma was killed by the toxin and is urging pet owners in the Forest not to panic. Practice director Davina Anderson said: “The symptoms were similar but we cannot say this is the same illness that affected dogs earlier in the year.”

All the deaths have occurred in the same general area – a vast expanse of heathland between Fritham and the Ringwood-Fordingbridge area.

The last confirmed case was reported in April and involved a dog that had been exercised near Burley.

As reported in the Daily Echo, a Jack Russell called Squibby is one of only two pets known to have survived the toxin. She suffered a swollen paw after going for a run near Latchmore Brook and spent nine days on a drip.

No other animal species appears to have been affected by the poison, which has yet to be identified.

A Forestry Commission spokesman revealed that more tests are due to be carried out in the Forest next month.

He said owners should take their dog to a vet if they noticed a wound, lesion or blister on the animal’s face, or if it became quiet, started vomiting or stopped eating.