A SWINDON dog owner has revealed the heartbreak of having her pet die from deadly Alabama rot.

The woman, who did not want to be named, took her two cocker spaniels to Marlborough's West Woods with a friend from the town last week. 

She said: "I shampooed both my dogs after the walk on Friday, as I always would after a walk like that.

"On Sunday everything was still fine with both dogs but on Monday, literally overnight, lesions started to appear on their legs."

The owners took the three cocker spaniels to Drove Veterinary Hospital in Swindon and were referred to Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Winchester, which has been researching the disease since it was first identified in the UK in 2012.

From there the dog was treated at the Royal Veterinary College in London.

But yesterday, because of the dog's deteriorating kidney condition, she was put to sleep.

"It was heartbreaking but there was no other decision we could make after what had been massive intervention at the RVC," said the woman.

"She was two and a half years old and had been as fit as a fiddle.

"My dogs were both given exactly the same treatment and one went on to develop kidney failure and the other one has had nothing more than the lesions.

"I just want to make sure that other dog owners are aware of the situation now because, up until now, even quite a few vets didn't know much about it."

The other two dogs are still being monitored for the disease and yesterday, a black Labrador called Mabel, which had been walked in the woods last week, is now also thought to have Alabama rot.

Mabel’s owner, Helen Kelly, said: “There is no clear test for this disease but the timeline of us walking at West Woods (Tuesday the 8th December) and symptoms appearing make it 'almost certain' in the words of the vet."

The Forestry Commission, which own West Woods, said it is investigating.

It is not known how the rare disease is caused or how it can be prevented, but it is thought to be picked up on paws and legs on muddy walks, and lesions are the first sign a dog could have it.

There have only been 60 confirmed cases of cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy in the UK.

David Walker, head of internal medicines at Anderson Moores, who has been monitoring the dogs, said: “Although this is a serious disease, it is not invariably fatal and we do not want people to panic.

“The signs to look out for are often little lesions below the knee or elbow and circular or like an ulcer.

"The hair will fall off which will get the dog’s attention and they may start licking it. However, the difficulty is not all the lesions will look the same.

“Be vigilant and if people are worried they should go to their local vets.

“There is a suggestion that there is an environmental factor, we don’t have clear evidence to back that up, but it can’t not help to wash down your dog after a walk."

Lynne Gaskarth, 40, a vet and director at Drove Veterinary Hospital, had said: “It’s really very sad. The three dogs were all working cockers, out and about living a proper doggy life.”

A Forestry Commission spokesperson said: “We are concerned about the reports we are hearing where dogs are becoming ill and their owners say the exercise included West Woods.

“We are keeping in touch with the deputy head veterinary nurse who first brought this to our attention about the progress of her dogs.

“Owners should always keep their dogs under close control and be aware of anything they may pick up, chew or eat wherever they are and if their dog becomes ill they should contact a vet as soon as possible with as much information as they can.”

Alabama rot symptoms include: 

Skin lesions – sometimes circular and about the size of a five pence piece, and often with defect in the skin like an ulcer. They are often on the lower leg, below the knee and elbow.

Kidney (renal) failure – vomiting, tiredness and not eating. These are very vague symptoms and can represent a number of other conditions.

The average time from showing skin lesions to signs of kidney failure is three days but can be anywhere from 10 days to simultaneous presentation.