AN amazing £10,000 has now been raised to try to pin down the cause of a toxin killing dogs in the forest.

The news comes after cases of the condition, similar to the Alabama Rot, have surfaced in Dorset and speculation is rising as to whether mud may have something to do with it.

New Forest Dog Owners Group has now collected more than £10,000 after at least 20 dogs were struck down and more only just recovered from the toxin, which causes lesions on the paws or legs and leads to kidney failure.

Cases have been identified from December to April last year, and again in the same period this year, and now it is being mooted that dogs who like to dig and bury things could be picking the toxin up.

NFDOG chairman Heather Gould said: “Two projects have already been undertaken and although nothing positive has been detected, a few more possibilities have been ruled out.

“Urine toxicology tests have been carried out on a number of sick dogs in an attempt to identify a toxin that may have been ingested, but nothing definite was discovered.

“A very kind and grieving family agreed to a full post mortem on a dog they had sadly lost, hoping that this would help the cause. The knowledge base continues to be built.”

She added: “We are not expecting any exciting breakthroughs in the medium term, but believe that every test that rules something out is a small step forward.

“The research fund is open to any vet who wants to research something specific about the illness and applications should be made via Anderson Moores (the specialist vet in Winchester overseeing the research).”

Treasurer Dr Ron Pearson said: “We have received sums of money between £5 and £200, from many individuals, members and dog clubs. There have been so many donations that, unfortunately, we have been unable to write to everyone, but we are indeed grateful that so many care enough to forward something towards the cause.”

Vet Siobhan Buswell, lost her own dog – a six-year-old labrador called Kirk – to the condition having only walked her pet in woods at Puddletown and Wareham, in Dorset.

She said: “It is thought this toxin is found in soil and/or rotting vegetation in woodland areas. “There is no evidence to suggest that this illness is passed from dog to dog.

“Two dogs can go on the same walk and one can be affected while the other is absolutely fine.”

Siobhan said her dog Kirk was the sort of dog that would dig and root in woodland areas and would carry a tennis ball which he would try to bury and dig up again.

She said: “It is possible that a dog that does this sort of thing while out on a walk is at increased risk of this disease. Early recognition and perhaps avoidance of woodland walks with certain dogs between December and March are important in keeping our dogs as safe as possible in the advent of this worrisome disease.”

Another pet owner Steve Smith, a forester from Worcester, who lost two dogs, Polly and Jess, says not washing his animals after taking them for a walk cost them their lives. His third dog, Judy, survived after being cleaned.

He said: “Polly and Jess were not washed. They groomed themselves, licked their coats and ingested the mud and soil. Judy also became ill but did not get kidney failure. I believe giving her a bath saved her life.”

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