THE RSPCA has issued a warning following a suspected outbreak of a paralytic disease that has left one swan dead in the town.

Although it has yet to be officially confirmed, a spokesman for the RSPCA has revealed that the charity believes the swan's death is linked to avian botulism.

The spokesman added: "The botulism bacteria is present in the environment at all times but they only produce the toxins in the hot weather and these build up in the carcasses of dead animals.

"Maggots then feed on the carcasses and birds eating the maggots then become intoxicated and without intervention will die, thus restarting the cycle."

But with the RSPCA close to 'breaking point', residents have been urged to contact the local authority to report dead animal bodies while the charity will try to rescue any sick birds.

The spokesman added: "No-one involved with the charity wants to let an animal in need down, but we hope people understand that we are dealing with an exceptionally busy year, in which between January and the end of July this year we received 806,365 calls to our 24-hour national cruelty line.

"On average we are receiving an average of 3,822 calls every day - that's one every 30 seconds."

The first swan was found near to Stockton Pointe on the banks of Walton Lock.

A second swan is also believed to have been infected with the disease in the same area.

There is no real risk to humans but dog walkers have been advised to keep their pets away from the bodies and water as a precaution and to prevent their dogs from attacking any sick or weak birds.