AN investigation is underway after a sick dog was abandoned in a lay-by and tied to a road sign.

The female Shar Pei, described by RSPCA inspectors as "extremely poorly" was dumped in a layby at Oxhill, near Stanley in County Durham.

The three-year-old animal is too sick to undergo full medical tests, but vets say she has a heart murmur, has lost fur around her face and hind legs and discharge from her eyes.

Inspectors believe her heartless owner dumped her because she was ill.

On Saturday, the RSPCA received a call to the charity's emergency line saying a dog was tied to a public footpath sign near the layby on the A693.

An officer went to the scene, but discovered the dog had already been rescued by a member of staff at a local vets who saw people gathered around after news of the abandoned animal spread on social media.

She was later handed over to the RSPCA and, although further tests are required once she is well enough to undergo them, the dog has been put into a quiet isolation unit to rest.

RSPCA Inspector Helen Nedley said: “This poor little girl was found in an extremely poor condition and it is heartbreaking to think that she has most likely been dumped because she is ill.

“She’s very sick and at the moment we are just keeping her comfortable and warm, in the hope that she starts to improve".

The dog was not microchipped and the RSPCA is now appealing for information about the pet's owner or for any witnesses who saw the dog being dumped.

“We are certain that someone may know who owns her, and we would urge anyone with information to contact the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018, all calls will be treated in confidence.

“The area in which she was left is by a busy main road, so if anyone saw the dog being left at the location or has any information we would urge them to get in touch too.

“We are really grateful to everyone who has shown concern and helped this poor dog, and I just hope we can find the person responsible for leaving her alone in this layby.”