Dog owners are being alerted to a deadly tick-borne disease that has occurred in the UK for the first time.
According to reports, one dog has died and several have been taken seriously ill after contracting babesiosis, caused by a parasite carried in the ticks.
The outbreak has been traced to an area of Harlow in Essex, where vets are concerned the disease could become established among ticks on the site.
The symptoms of babesiosis within dogs include weakness, lethargy, pale gums, red urine and fever. A serious problem is that Babesia can be mistaken for other less dangerous diseases.
In a warning to dog walkers, Harlow Council said: "The ticks concerned are extremely rare in Britain and this is the first time that babesia has been found in the tick in the UK.
"It is important that dog owners have their pets protected with anti-tick treatment and regularly check their dogs for ticks. Further advice is available from local vets."
Councillor Mark Wilkinson, portfolio holder for environment, said the area was popular with dog walkers, but sought to reassure pet owners that the alert was "purely precautionary".
"The council is also in contact with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and is seeking any further advice from them."
Speaking to the BBC, Clive Swainsbury, a vet at the Forest Veterinary Centre in Harlow, said the disease could spread through wild animals.
"At present we have a very well-defined area," he said. "The problem in the future is that every female tick will lay a couple of thousand eggs and all those offspring from that disease will also carry the disease.
"As mammals move around they will start spreading the disease. Although you can advisedog walkers not to go there, it's possible that foxes and other animals will transport these ticks."