A SPATE of dog poisonings in Shirley is "unlikely" to have been caused by anti-caterpillar pesticides, officials have insisted.
In June the Forestry Commission sprayed trees in Parkfields, next to Bethlem Royal Hospital, with a biological pesticide to kill an outbreak of fatally poisonous oak processionary caterpillars.
The Advertiser knows of four residents in neighbouring Freshfields who say their dogs fell ill soon after, suffering vomiting and blood in their stools. Some wondered whether the pesticide was to blame.
Alan Smith, whose eight-year-old boxer Ben is still ill, said: "If it had just been our dogs I would have put it down to coincidence, but there are three lots.
"The vet has done full blood test but they could turn anything up, which makes me think it might be something up there."
A Forestry Commission spokesman said the pesticide used was BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), which is derived "from a naturally occurring soil bacteria".
He added: "It is very safe for humans and all animals apart from some species of caterpillars, and it is highly unlikely to have caused dogs to become ill.
"It remains active in the environment for only a very short time after application, and its safety for other species is a key reason why it is our preferred treatment product."
An RSPCA spokeswoman said she was not aware of any cases of possible BT pesticide illnesses.
Jo Atkinson, social forestry manager at the Forestry Commission, said the same, adding the dogs' symptoms did not appear to match those of the mysterious Seasonal Canine Illness that appeared in 2009.
The caterpillars themselves affect dogs badly, but tend to cause rashes and throat problems.
In Shirley, meanwhile, residents remain baffled.
Dawn Skelton, owner of Lab-staff-cross Mush, 10, said: "He has been sick and had blood in his poo since two days after they sprayed the tree.
"The vet gave him some antibiotics, which appeared to stop it for a couple of days but then it started again."
Danielle Mead's family dog Cara has been showing similar symptoms.
She said: "Since they sprayed the stuff she has been really ill.
"Cara loves sticks; she picks up branches from anywhere and normally underneath the oak tree where the branches fall.
"It is sad: Cara's a really lovely family dog and we have had her for years."
The RSPCA spokeswoman added: "Never watch and wait in any case of suspected poisoning.
"If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, act fast and contact a vet for advice immediately."