PET owners in the New Forest are being urged not to panic after another dog fell victim to a deadly disease known as Alabama Rot.

A six-year-old whippet called Spartacus had to be put down after being exercised in Lyndhurst and other parts of Hampshire.

Her owner, marathon runner Robin Ward, 37, of Waterlooville, said: “I took her everywhere and I couldn’t say where she might have picked it up.

“I had her put down because it was the right thing to do, but I loved her very much and it broke my heart.”

Most of the dogs struck down by Alabama Rot after being exercised in the Forest have been treated by Anderson Moores, a specialist veterinary practice based at Hursley, near Winchester.

David Walker, the practice’s head of medicine, confirmed that Mr Ward’s dog developed skin lesions, followed by kidney failure, and had to be destroyed.

The Forest has so far seen at least 17 cases of Alabama Rot but Mr Walker said instances of the disease were extremely low compared with the hundreds of dogs that were walked in the area every day.

He added: “It’s also important to stress that the disease is not invariably fatal. Some dogs do survive.”

Highlighting the problems involved in trying to find a cure he warned: “The difficulty with the disease is that although we suspect an environmental trigger we don’t know for sure.”

A district council spokesman urged dog owners to remain vigilant.

He said they should contact a vet if they noticed a lesion or blister on their dog’s leg or face within seven days of the animal being exercised in the Forest or elsewhere.

“This may be hard to spot but you may notice your dog licking itself more than usual,” he said.

Alabama Rot was first identified in greyhounds in the United States in the 1980s and appears to have reached the UK at the end of 2012.

Many of the cases have occurred in Hampshire and Dorset but several other counties have also been affected including Cornwall, Worcestershire and Durham.

Some experts believe it may be caused by bacteria found in wooded areas, which could explain why the Forest is one of the hotspots.