A DEADLY toxin is feared to be killing dogs in the Forest after at least eight pets died a week after cutting their paws or legs at popular beauty spots.

Two dogs have been saved, but vets fear many more pets may have died as sore paws and kidney failure may not have been thought to be connected.

A renal expert in Texas is studying blood from the dogs, and the Environment Agency is investigating.

Local vets are appealing for information about similar cases and warning people to seek immediate attention if their pets develop any lameness or soreness.

Louise Beal, from North Gorley, lost her dog last week after walking him at Latchmore Brook.

Her springer spaniel Bruno became ill a day after walking him at the spot near Ogdens car park, where the Forestry Commission is carrying out a controversial programme of works to alter the course of the water. Speculation that the site was used for ordnance testing during the war is also being taken seriously, though cases in other areas seem to point at another source to the outbreak.

Specialists Bruno suffered a cut paw at Latchmore Brook on Saturday, February 23, and Mrs Beal took him to vet Duncan Reavell of Linwood Veterinary Group at Verwood on Monday.

Bruno’s condition deteriorated sharply and Mr Reavell, from Frogham, who knew of several other cases of kidney failure in dogs after walks at Latchmore Brook recently, immediately sent Bruno to renal specialists Anderson Moores in Winchester, hooked up to a drip in the family car.

Sadly, all efforts failed to save him and he died on Saturday, a week after his walk. Now Mr Reavell is compiling a database of cases to track down the cause of the “cluster” of fatalities, which may be a water or soil-borne toxin.

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

Tracey and Jon Matherick took their six Siberian huskies to Moors Valley for a sleddog event on February 9.

When they returned home to Chard in Somerset Boo, their eight-year-old bitch, had a tender paw and was a little lame.

Mrs Matherick said: “We checked it, no signs of cuts or grazes, no skinned pads, but she possibly had a small puncture.

“Two days later the paw began to swell, followed by the entire leg.”

Vets tried to treat Boo but after five days she began to shake, her eyes rolled and she started vomiting.

She was put on a drip, but after eight days her kidneys failed.

By day ten her organs had failed and the Mathericks had to have her put to sleep.

Mrs Matherick said: “Until the story went on the Forest Journal website we had no idea what had happened to Boo.

“We have been devastated, but our vets had no answers. Boo was a fit and healthy dog.”

A Forestry Commission spokesman said: “We would be grateful to hear if anyone else had suffered a similar experience or has any other useful information."

Vet Roger Stobbs from Forest Vets said: “The first case we saw was at the beginning of December and if it had been just two or three we might have put it down to coincidence.

“But there is a definite cluster and at the moment, despite tests at one of the top labs in the UK, we still don’t know what’s causing it. It just doesn’t fit any of the known patterns, and it is particularly aggressive.

“I would avoid walking dogs at Latchmore because there have been several cases involving that spot, but cases are dotted about – there was one in Calshot.

“We hope to get a better idea in the next week or so.”

Anyone who is concerned or whose pet has suffered a similar reaction should contact Mr Reavell on 01202 882101.