A second dog is feared to have died from a deadly disease which has struck in the Horsham area - and there are concerns that a third may also be infected.
An outbreak of the lethal Alabama Rot disease was first confirmed in Southwater last week.
Now a second dog in Southwater has had to be put down after vets feared that it, too, had contracted the killer disease.
The dog - a five-year-old Weimaraner called Mitzee - tragically became ill just days after vets confirmed the first dog’s death.
Now distraught owner Craig Nicholls is urging other pet owners to be on the lookout for signs of the illness.
“The disease is a rare beast which is not well known by many at all,” he said. “If Mitzee’s case of Alabama Rot can assist in keeping others from being fatal in any way shape or form at least then her death would not be in vain.”
Heart-breakingly, Craig fears that his family’s other dog - a Doberman called Storm - may also have the disease. She is currently undergoing tests while the family wait anxiously for news.
All three dogs had been walking on the Downs Link near West Grinstead before becoming ill.
Vets say they do not know where the dogs were infected but are warning pet owners to be on the lookout for signs of the disease - also known as cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy or CRGV - in their pets.
The disease causes tiny blood clots to form in blood vessels of the skin and kidneys which can lead to kidney failure and death. Symptoms can be skin lesions on the paws, legs or body.
Craig told how he, his wife Laura and their three children were still in a state of shock after Mitzee suddenly became ill on Wednesday. “We’re all devastated,” he said.
He explained that he first noticed what looked like a blister on Mitzee’s inner thigh on Wednesday evening. “We put a cone around her head and some cream on her and took her to Hawthorne Vets at Partridge Green first thing the next m0rning,” said Craig.
Mitzee underwent a number of tests and was taken back to Hawthorn’s Henfield branch on Saturday morning. By then, said Craig, Mitzee was “drinking more water, was a bit breathy and not interested in food.”
Vets strongly suspected she had Alabama Rot - but a full diagnosis can only be made after death.
“It was hearbreaking,” said Craig. “I found it very difficult to sign the consent form to have her put to sleep. It was so hard.”
He said that they had heard about the first dog that died of Alabama Rot but when Mitzee first became ill thought “it’s so rare, it can’t be that. Then to have our little pride and joy to be ripped away ... it’s nobody’s fault, but it’s a hard thing, it’s hard for the vets as well.”
He praised staff at Hawthorn Vets who, he said, had been ‘fantastic.’
Meanwhile, the vets themselves have spoken of their sorrow at what has happened.
A spokesman said: “We are saddened to report that a patient of ours has died from a confirmed case of CRGV (Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy) also known as ‘Alabama Rot’ and we now have a likely SECOND Case.
“The second dog was sadly put to sleep on Saturday and we are awaiting post-mortem results to confirm our strong suspicion that this patient was also suffering from CRGV.
“The first signs of CRGV is often unexplained lesions or redness particularly but not exclusively on the legs or paws. In some unfortunate cases these lesions can then lead to renal (kidney) failure.
“Whilst we recommend seeking veterinary advice if you discover any unexplained lesions on your dog, we wish to reassure our clients that there may be many causes such as a sting, wound or cut that are not related to CRGV.
“However, due to the possibilities of having two cases, if your dog does have a lesion of unknown origin we will be recommending to do blood work to check kidney function and possibly repeating it 24-48hours later.
“Both dogs lived in the Southwater area and had been walking on the Downslink from West Grinstead towards Henfield in the week before they became ill but as of yet we do not know the cause of CRGV and so can not speculate as to whether this is relevant or not.”
The confirmed case of Alabama Rot in Southwater - confirmed by veterinary specialists Anderson Moores - brings the total number of cases this year to 17.
Last year, cases of the deadly disease were reported in Petworth, Brighton and Billingshurst among other areas around the country.