A mysterious disease is killing dogs across Britain, vets have warned.
Pet owners have been urged to look out for the disease - which so far has no name - if their dogs start to forming lesions on their lower legs.
Warning posters were yesterday put up in popular dog walking parts of the New Forest, Hampshire.
So far 16 dogs have died in the last year - nine in Hampshire, and seven in other parts of the country including Cornwall, Surrey, Worcestershire and County Durham.
Dogs which have been killed by the disease develop lesions on the lower legs followed by kidney failure between two and seven days later.
Vet David Walker said that the deaths have similarities to a disease called Alabama rot which was first reported in the United States in the 1980s.
He said Alabama rot was caused by toxins from the E. coli bacteria - but this had not yet been traced in the UK.
Mr Walker, from Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Hursley, near Winchester, told the BBC: 'The advice I would give to the pet-owning general public is if you see a wound on your dog's leg, where you might ordinarily leave that for 12 to 24 hours, the advice would be to take your dog to the vets.
'Most vets are now aware of the condition so seek early veterinary attention.' British Veterinary Association president Robin Hargreaves said: 'Dog owners in these regions will feel understandably anxious about the recent cases but it seems that only a very small proportion of the dogs walked in these areas each day have been affected.
"Owners should make sure they are aware of the signs and symptoms and contact their vet immediately if they have any concerns."
A Forestry Commission spokesman said that the cause of the deaths had not yet been confirmed and added that signs had been put up to advise dog owners to look out for the symptoms.
He said: "There have been a few as yet unexplained incidents in the New Forest and the Forestry Commission is working closely with vets and putting up notices to inform the public.
"Owners should always keep their dogs under close control and be aware of anything they may pick up, chew or eat in a woodland area. If their dog becomes ill they should contact a vet as soon as possible with as much information as they can."
The sign says: "Dog owners are advised to look out for wounds or lesions on the limbs or face of their dog which will not heal. Affected dogs then go on to develop signs of severe depression, loss of appetite and vomiting, quickly accompanied by acute injury to the kidneys."
- Daily Mail