EXPERTS are joining together to try to solve the mystery of a bizarre illness causing dogs to fall down dead after walking in local woodland.
Up to 10 dogs are thought to have died as a result of the so-called Seasonal Canine Illness since 2009 - but the cause remains unknown.
Many more animals became unwell - with symptoms including severe vomiting, diarrhoea, shaking and trembling and high temperature - a day after walking in the countryside, especially in woodlands.
Now, agencies including the Forestry Commission and Nottinghamshire County Council have teamed up to share information about any outbreaks - following fears that cases had gone unreported in previous years.
Forestry Commission spokesman Jo Atkinson said: “Although no cases have yet been reported this year, we are working with our many partners to get a clearer picture of the distribution and reasons behind this upsetting sickness.
“Both dog owners and vets can play their part, too, in helping protect cherished pets.”
Meanwhile, scientists at Nottingham University Veterinary School are trying to develop a test for a possible toxin which might be to blame. Now vets are being encouraged to collect samples which may be used by researchers.
Last year signs were erected at Vicar Water Country Park in Clipstone, warning owners to keep their dogs out of the water. Some experts have put forward toxic cynobacteria - also known as blue-green algae - as the cause of the sickness, including Rainworth vet Janice Dixon, of McPherson and Partners.
Up to 20 possible causes have been identified.
Advice to dog owners includes:
Be vigilant for signs of illness and contact a vet immediately if concerned.
Be aware of where your dog is walking and what it may be eating and drinking.
Think about keeping your dog on a lead.
Tell other pet owners about the project to spread the word.
The Animal Health Trust is asking dog owners who have walked in affected areas to fill in a questionnaire at www.aht.org.uk/seasonal_illness.html even if dogs did not fall ill.