DOG owners across Canvey are being warned about a mystery virus which has proved fatal.

Three pets have already died in the past ten months, and vets on the island have dealt with an average of three milder cases a day in the past four weeks.

The illness begins with sickness which in most cases lasts for up to ten days before the dog makes a full recovery.

However, in the three most serious cases the pets have died just 24 hours after first being struck with the virus.

Elizabeth King, manager of Medivet on Furtherwick Road, is urging dog owners to stay calm but be careful.

She said: “We are just looking into the virus at the moment and It seems to be linked to the common dog walking areas on the island, but not one particular park.

“We don’t want to worry anyone but we just want to make people aware and be vigilant with their dogs and if they have any concerns it’s best to get them checked out straight away.

“It seems to be a mixture of vaccinated and non vaccinated dogs picking it up. The virus is affecting large breeds and small breeds, both genders and dogs of all ages.”

The Animal Health Trust have been made aware of the problem, and confirmed that the mystery illness is currently restricted to Canvey and has not spread to other parts of south Essex.

Tests to discover what the unknown virus is are still ongoing.

Charity campaigner and Canvey dog walker Emily Lawrence, 36, of First Avenue, said: “The people of Canvey are dog lovers so obviously this is very worrying.

“Even if you’re a responsible dog owner and get your pets vaccinated they’re still at risk. I would just say to people to be very aware and act quickly if your dog starts to show signs of sickness and diarrhoea. You need to keep them hydrated and I suppose the virus sounds like the human winter vomiting virus.”