Several dogs have fallen ill after being walked at Otamatea Reserve in Whanganui and there are concerns the illness is related to rat poison.
The Wanganui Dog Training Club was set to host a major dog agility event at the park this weekend and at the last moment moved the event to Gonville Domain after it was offered to them by the Whanganui District Council.
The Chronicle has heard of at least three cases of dogs falling ill and one of them is being assessed at Massey University.
Results are expected back today.
The council was aware of rats seen drinking from a dog water trough at the park but it said it had not laid nor found any rat bait on the field at Otamatea Reserve.
Competitors were expected at the two-day dog competition from all over the lower North Island and organiser Nikkie Watson was stressed at having to move the entire operation.
"We're not risking it so we're having to move our whole event," she said.
"We're waiting on confirmation from the vets and I've only heard it third hand what's going on.
"We're just in panic mode at the moment ... we're having to move our whole event this weekend because of the [possible threat of] poisoning."
A local dog walker, Sue Beardslee, suspected the rat bait came from one of the rest homes near the reserve as they were obliged to put down poison for vermin.
"Lately rats have been seen during the day near the water trough by the shed.
"They have appeared to be unwell, and rats don't normally come out during daylight hours," Beardslee said.
"The assumption is that they have eaten poison and, being dehydrated from it, have sought the most readily available supply of water, which is the dogs' water supply."
She said the trough had since been removed.
Pieter Verhoek, who is a vet at Wanganui Veterinary Services, said he hadn't assessed any of the dogs suspected of falling ill from rat bait.
But, he said if a dog had consumed rat bait the sooner he or other vets saw the animal, the better its chances.
"The antidote is pretty straight forward. But if they wait 24 hours ... the further down the timelines we go the more difficult it is to treat them and turn them around.
"In some cases it can be 50/50 in terms of survival. But the earlier we get them the way better chance we have at being able to do a whole lot of positive things."
He outlined what it would look like if a dog had consumed rat bait.
"You don't see symptoms for probably between maybe four to 10 days afterwards.
"The first thing the owners may notice is a dog is a bit more lethargic ... then they may notice some other signs. One is that the dog's got a very light, shallow cough.
"Eyes become tomato coloured, just bright, bright red. They may notice bleeding from the gums and the last thing they might notice is the faeces, normally a brown colour, turning to a dark, black tacky colour."
The council said residents near Gonville Reserve should be aware a number of people would be arriving for the dog show and it would include people camping at the reserve.