DOG walkers are being warned to keep a close eye on their pets because of a mysterious illness which is thought to have killed more than a dozen dogs including two from Pershore.

Vets and government agencies are investigating the deaths which were caused by acute kidney failure and are linking incidents across the country.

Steve Smith, of Wadborough, near Pershore, is the chairman of the Worcestershire Gun Dog Society and lost two of his working dogs in November last year.

The springer spaniels developed the condition – now thought to be something similar to a bacterial infection known as Alabama skin rot – hours after going on a shoot on the Worcestershire-Gloucestershire border.

He said: “We thought it had disappeared but it hasn’t. It’s still about. At the time I had 14 working gun dogs. It just so happened this day it was two of my best trial dogs, Jess and Polly, and one beating dog, Judy.”

Following the shoot Mr Smith put the two trail dogs in the kennels giving them a warm feed and leaving them under the light. He took the house dog Judy inside where she was bathed.

Mr Smith believes the bathing is what saved Judy’s life.

“She has recovered 100 per cent,” he said. “The biggest thing I have said and the vet backs up is bathing seems to be the best form of prevention.

“The two that were in the kennel groomed themselves and we think it was ingested. We are fairly certain it’s a condition called Alabama skin rot.”

This has been confirmed by Tom Carr, vet at Martin and Carr in Pershore, who treated the dogs. He said they could not be certain what caused the renal failure, which ultimately killed the dogs, but that the condition was similar to Alabama skin rot as researched by a professor at the Ohio State University.

“We were pretty upset about it because they were lovely dogs,” said Mr Carr. “I was trying to get some information and I found a Professor Couto.

“He asked me to send samples but we couldn’t identify the organism because it won’t still be there as it resides in the gut.”