ONLINE POLL: At last! Top probe into deaths of forest dogs

A man walking his dog.
A man walking his dog.

AN investigation has been launched into a mystery forest illness believed to have killed 10 dogs locally since September 2009.

The spate of illnesses occurred in dogs who had been walked through Sherwood Forest, Clumber Park, Haywood Oaks, Blidworth Woods, Sherwood Pines and Thieves Wood.

After showing symptoms of vomiting and dehydration, some of the dogs died within 48 hours.

Now Nottinghamshire County Council is leading the investigation into the cause of the deaths.

Rainworth vet Janice Dixon was among experts to blame blue-green algae, a water-borne bacteria which is highly poisonous to dogs. She said she was delighted the investigation was being carried out.

“I was very pleased with the news - and it’s thanks to the pressure the newspapers, TV and radio have applied that this is being looked at so seriously.”

Mrs Dixon, of Mcpherson and Partners vets, warned in October last year that testing had happened too late in the year when Environmental Health deemed there was no evidence of dangerous levels of the bacteria - and she said there was a chance more dog deaths could happen again this year.

Janice is carrying out a separate investigation into the deaths in conjuction with the vetinary school at Nottingham Univeristy, and she plans to distribute sample packs to local vets.

She said: “It sounds unpleasant but we need samples of the vomit or other materials these dogs are bringing up if we are going to find the cause of this illness. “

Blue-green algae bacteria, ticks and fungi are some of the 20 explanations for the illnesses the county council’s study group will be seeking to rule out.

Chair of the Communities and Environment Committee for the county council, Coun Sue Saddington said the group would work with a number of other organisations including Natual England, the National Veterinary Association and Mansfield and Ashfield District Councils.

“The study group will attempt to ascertain the cause of these deaths, if there was anything that could have been done earlier to diagnose the cause and whether this would have prevented further deaths.”

In October last year, Newark and Sherwood District Council put up signs warning of the dangers of higher-than-normal levels of blue-green algae went up at Vicar Water in Clipstone.

The Forestry Commission, which maintains woodland at Sherwood Forest Pines in Edwinstowe, Haywood Oaks in Blidworth and Thieves Wood, asked any pet owners with animals suffering from blue-green algae poisoning symptoms should call them with details about where they walked to help solve the mystery.

Mrs Dixon said it may be necessary to cordon off parts of the forests if the deaths continue to occur in the forests.

“It may be that the cause is something we cannot do much about except to warn off dog walkers from going into these areas, similarly to what happens during the Australian jellyfish season.”

It’s not thought the source of the illness is any risk to humans. Similar spates of illness have occurred in Lincolnshire and Warwickshire.