A BARRY family has been left devastated after one of their much-loved dogs fell victim to a lethal disease.

Five-year-old springer spaniel, Rufus suffered for several days before his owners took the decision to have him put down as their vet diagnosed his condition as a suspected case of Alabama Rot for which there is no cure and the outcome is death.

Owner John Hartland believes the case is unique in that it is the first time a specific site of origin could potentially be identified as Chicken Wood Park, a grassy play area just off Porthkerry Road in Barry, which was the only place he had walked his three dogs.

Alabama Rot is characterised by skin and sometimes renal changes. Experts are yet to identify a definite cause, but it is believed muddy woodland areas could be a cause, with only very few dogs being afflicted.

Mr Hartland said on February 26, Rufus was unusually quiet.

The springer spaniel was covered in drool, his face swelled, his temperature increased dramatically, and he bled from his nostrils.

The vet at the Maes Glas veterinary surgery, in Salisbury Road, Barry, initially thought he had a traumatic injury and the next day, following a check-up, thought it could be an allergic reaction. But, having kept him in, they decided he needed to be in the care of their veterinary hospital in Bridgend.

The father of four said: “We had a call from the resident vet to say he was going downhill fast. They did not know what was happening; we would need to consider putting him down.

“Rufus’s bladder was distended.”

On Saturday, March 2 the senior vet called.

“They thought he had Alabama Rot”, Mr Hartland said.

Mr Hartland said: “Rufus had gone into a coma suffering kidney failure and had a badly ulcerated mouth in addition to the swelling. After a long conversation I agreed to have Rufus put down.

“The vet said there was no cure for Alabama Rot, its cause was not known and there were no blood tests which could accurately predict the onset of the illness.

“A thousand dogs could pass the same spot only for one to fall ill.”

Samples from the post-mortem examination have been sent to Anderson Moors, the referral centre for Alabama Rot, with the results estimated to take two to three weeks.

Mr Hartland, whose knee injury had confined the dogs solely to the park, said: “I knew where Rufus had been to pick up the illness unlike all other cases where they could not identify a location.

“I had limited their area to the top half of Chicken Wood about 150m from my home.

“The dogs Rufus and Lexi would pick up sticks and bring them to me to throw.

“Rufus would not be seen without a stick he’d pick up in the park.

“I could even identify the trees which provided the bulk of the sticks.

“I have been asked to pass this information on to the vets for submission to Anderson Moor.”

He said he did not want to create panic or cause owners alarm, but he wanted people to know so they could use the information to assess the current risk at this particular site and take appropriate advice on bathing their dog following a walk.

Mr Hartland, who also owns border collie Lexi, 10, and Rufus’s mother 13-year-old springer spaniel Roxie, added: “Rufus was the baby of the trio – always up to mischief but very gentle. Rufus had the knack of cuddling into my wife Janice when she was down with her arthritis and when she was ill.

“We are aware he suffered and we wish we had been able to identify it in the beginning because there is no comeback.

“We are totally devastated.”

More than 100 cases of Alabama Rot have been highlighted to the Vets4Pets website including one recent case in St Athan in January.

Vale council operational manager for leisure, Dave Knevett said: “The council is aware of the recent reported case of Alabama Rot and would urge dog owners to follow veterinary advice for preventing spread of the disease.

“This involves washing dogs’ paws thoroughly after they have been walking in muddy areas.”

To view a map of reported cases visit vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot/