David Arthur, 59, was left devastated when his 13-month old ‘beautiful boy’ Odin had to be put to sleep in September after forking out £6,000 to vets who said the dog’s lungs were too badly damaged from pneumonia.
The Cowplain resident, whose canine swam every day at Hayling Island beach, was told by vets they had ‘never seen anything like it’ after Odin was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia - an infection that can be caused by ingesting a foreign matter including sea water into lungs.
It comes after reports last year of sewage being pumped into the sea sparking locals to plead with Southern Water to tackle pollution in Langstone Harbour - with illnesses blamed on the foul water.
David said he complained to Southern Water before he was offered £500 as a ‘goodwill gesture’ which he declined.
He said: ‘We are heartbroken. Odin was a fit and healthy dog - probably the strongest one we’ve had in 40 years.
‘I’ve got other dogs but the difference is that Odin would swim out of his depth in the sea every day. We think pollution has gone into his lung and caused an infection.
‘Other dogs have got ill there. We know of one that had the same as Odin but survived because it was a small breed whereas Odin was so big his lungs couldn’t cope.
‘The vets said they had never seen anything like it. Normally dogs who get pneumonia survive. But his lungs were so bad after the aspiration pneumonia had turned to bronchial pneumonia.’
David said he approached Southern Water amid fears over documented pollution problems in the sea.
‘We did not think about it at the time because we were so upset but a few weeks later we thought about the pollution problems with sewage getting dumped into the sea,’ he said.
‘We were told by vets he ingested something into his lungs which caused a major infection. After I contacted Southern Water they asked for proof it was aspiration pneumonia which I sent them.
‘The said sorry for the loss of my dog and offered me £500 as a goodwill gesture which I turned down as our vets bills cost £6,000.’
When The News contacted Southern Water, a spokesman said they did not accept responsibility for the dog’s death.
The spokesman also said the water quality on Hayling’s beaches was rated excellent following regular testing by the Environment Agency.
However, in an email David received in October from St Peter’s Vets, Petersfield, where Odin was treated, the finger was pointed at the sea as a likely cause of the infection.
It said: ‘During the course of his illness and treatment none of the other dogs in (Odin’s) household became unwell.
‘The only difference in their walks and activity is that he swam in the sea every day and the concern is that all of his symptoms could have been caused by aspirating sea water.’
Meanwhile the British Veterinary Association president Justine Shotton said: ‘Sea water may contain bacteria even in unpolluted areas so inhalation of any foreign material, including sea water, can lead to aspiration pneumonia in dogs.
‘One way that dog owners can help prevent seawater inhalation is by keeping their pets from swimming in the sea on days when it is very rough.’
Odin’s death comes after Southern Water was fined a record £90m last July for deliberately pouring sewage into the sea.
A number of locals and organisations had reported pollution and illness during 2021.
Hayling Island Sailing Club member and former councillor for Hayling West, Joanne Thomas, said she was ‘inundated’ with letters from residents complaining about raw sewage in the harbours.
Kitesurfer Chris Bull, the founder of CBK Hayling Island Kitesurf School and Club, said his staff and family members often fell seriously ill after being in the water.
In June Hayling Sewage Watch gathered more than 2,000 signatures from people calling for ‘help to stop Hayling beaches being polluted with untreated sewage’.
Mike Owens, of the group, said: ‘We know from our own testing and the regular reports of sickness by water users that the seas around Hayling are regularly polluted by water outflows containing untreated sewage.’
In October the Environment Agency warned people not to get into the water off Eastney and Hayling Island due to an ‘abnormal situation’ after residents reported sanitary products and wet wipes at ‘every pace’ along the beach.
Despite this Southern Water insisted there was ‘no evidence’ of pollution.
Responding to Odin’s case, a spokesman for Southern Water, said: ‘We’re sorry to learn of the death of Mr Arthur’s dog. The beaches around Hayling Island have among the highest quality water in the country – tested throughout the summer by the Environment Agency with results published on the Defra website.
‘Some 78 of the 83 beaches in our area are ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ according to the government’s classification and none are below acceptable. We understand our customers’ concerns over storm releases made to prevent homes from flooding during heavy rain which is why we have launched a task force aiming to cut such storm releases by 80 per cent by 2030.
‘We disclose every single release in near real time on our Beachbuoy website primarily as a service to kayakers and other water users who may be in the water where our long sea outfalls end and this has greatly raised public awareness of how the system operates. Just as it was unacceptable 30 years ago that only 41 per cent of the 83 designated beaches in our region met the ‘acceptable’ level, it is clearly unacceptable to customers this system is relied on so much.
‘It is impossible to say how Odin caught pneumonia but as a goodwill gesture we offered to pay £500 of vet fees as we always go above and beyond for our customers.’