Urgent warning as Britain’s ‘most dangerous plant’ kills dog while out on walk

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Stuart Good, 61, was walking his dog Ella in Port Sunlight River Park, Wirral, when she yelped out in pain and scrambled out from the undergrowth. Mr Good and Ella were joined on the walk by friend Clive Ransom, who said: “She shot out as if something had spooked her and let out a little yelp.”

He added: “We carried on the walk and then I went back to my place, Stuart went back to his place. Then he phoned me up and said, ‘I’ve just seen a blister on Ella and she’s trying to scratch it’.

“She came out of the bushes yelping. We didn’t know what it was and she had a little blister about the size of a £1 coin under her front leg and that then developed.

“The next day it was double the size and the next day it was double the size again.”

Mr Good and Ella were taken to a vet’s in Birkenhead where they were told the cause of her injuries.

Mr Ransom told the Liverpool Echo: “I said, ‘Right that’s it,’ because Stuart doesn’t drive I took him to the vets.”

He explained three days later they were told the cause of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s pain was giant hogweed.

The vet offered to prescribe pain killers, but said there was no cure and when the pain got too much for poor Ella, they would have to say goodbye.

Considered the country’s most dangerous plant, giant hogweed can cause severe skin burns.

Chemicals within the sap can cause photodermatitis or photosensitivity where the skin becomes really sensitive to sunlight.

It can cause blistering, discoloration and long-lasting scars.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) says there are as many as five giant hogweed species at large in Britain which all pose a risk.

A close relative of cow parsley, it can grow more than 10 feet in height and is widely distributed in the wild, according to the RHS.

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Heracleum sphondylium, also known as cow parsnip, is a native hogweed familiar to gardeners and walkers.

It can grow up to six feet when in flower but is a smaller plant than giant hogweed.

The RHS says it can cause rashes and other skin complaints, but reactions tend not be as severe as with larger species.

In the weeks after Ella’s first trip to the vets, Mr Ransom said the blister continued to grow to the point where it covered half her side.

He said: “It was that bad it was weeping and bleeding.

“Stuart had to throw his bedding away. He loved the dog so much he had her in bed with him to keep her comfortable. It was devastating for him.”

At the end of May, Mr Good made the heartbreaking decision to have 13-year-old Ella put down.

He shared his story to warn others about the dangers giant hogweed can pose to pets.

On the banks of the Mersey, Port Sunlight River Park is owned and managed by The Land Trust.

Its spokesperson said: “The Land Trust has been made aware of an unfortunate incident involving a dog and has reached out to the individual for more information. We are not aware of any Giant Hogweed, which can be dangerous, at Port Sunlight River Park.

“We do have Common Hogweed which is a common native plant and is often confused for Giant Hogweed – which is a non-native invasive species.
“Common Hogweed does not cause any issues to the public or their pets and can often be found in our parks in meadows, woodland, along hedgerows, verges and roadsides.

“Health and safety at our parks is extremely important to the Land Trust. Our rangers do regular, scheduled checks and maintenance to keep our parks safe for visitors. This includes mowing grassed areas adjacent to the paths keeping them short for visitors and their pets.”

They added the park also has signs on site which advise owners to keep their dogs on a lead and to stick to paths to help preserve ground nesting birds and to be respectful of the site as well as other visitors.

The spokesperson said: “Our site ranger is generally on site Monday – Friday and will continue to do regular health and safety checks of the park, along with our volunteers, and also speak to any visitors about their concerns.”

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