PET owners have been warned to take care at a Cheshire beauty spot.

The Wildlife Helpers, a Northwich-based animal rescue service, has reported an outbreak of avian botulism at Shakerley Mere in Allostock.

At least two swans have already died as a result of the illness, which can affect dogs.

“Please do not allow dogs in or near the water the toxin can be deadly if ingested,” said a spokesperson for The Wildlife Helpers.

“Please contact us as soon as possible if visiting the mere or local waters and see any birds in sign of distress or illness.

“The botulinum toxin causes paralysis then death by drowning or respiratory failure.

“Two swans, one mute and one black, have already died from this and one is currently in a critical condition, while another is being treated as a precautionary measure at another rescue.”

Northwich Guardian: Shakerley MereShakerley Mere (Image: Google Maps)

According to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), avian botulism is a 'paralytic and often fatal' disease.

It is caused by the ingestion of a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and outbreaks occur 'relatively frequently' among wild waterbirds in England and Wales.

The main sign of the disease is paralysis, which can affect birds for several days, leaving them unable to use their wings, legs and sometimes neck muscles.

Death is therefore caused by respiratory failure and/or drowning.

Avian botulism is considered to be a 'very low' risk to humans and is 'relatively rare' among dogs and cats, although they are potentially susceptible, according to APHA.

Nevertheless, the agency advises that if you come across murky stagnant water or sick or dead birds, put your dog on a lead and prevent them from ingesting carcasses, drinking from or swimming in the water.