A doberman is suffering from a broken heart after his owner fell ill and was forced to give him up.

Seven-year-old Rocco is being cared for by RSPCA Essex South, Southend and District branch.

His owner became house bound and concerned neighbours called the RSPCA.

After tests the pet was diagnosed with a broken heart.

Now the animal charity is hoping to find Rocco a new, loving home.

Branch dog coordinator Kathy Butler said: “Poor Rocco has had a difficult few years and his story is absolutely heartbreaking.

“He was a much-loved pet with a lovely home. He was always out and about with his owner, enjoying life and being the best dog you could hope for. However, when he was five, his owner’s health started failing.

“Unfortunately this eventually led to his owner becoming housebound - which also meant Rocco became housebound. He was incredibly devoted to his owner and wouldn’t leave their side.

“Last month, neighbours became concerned by Rocco’s constant barking. They found Rocco’s owner had fallen extremely ill and needed hospital treatment.

“Rocco spent the next three weeks alone in the home, with neighbours popping in to feed him. He was extremely distressed. Alone all day and night with his beloved owner missing, Rocco’s purpose in life had vanished. He was broken hearted.”

Sadly, Rocco ended up coming into the RSPCA’s care. But the confused dog was extremely unsettled.

“He’s such a sweet soul be he’s very stressed here,” Kathy added. “He would pace, spin and show many signs of anxiety. Sometimes he would eat, and sometimes he wouldn’t.”

Staff were worried about his health so they took him to the vets for a check-up. Blood tests, x-rays, an ECG and an ultrasound were undertaken and the results were conclusive. He was suffering from cardiomyopathy - or heart muscle disease - where the heart fails to pump blood properly and becomes enlarged, often triggering other health problems.

“The results confirmed he quite literally had a broken heart,” Kathy said.

“Sadly, Dobermans are prone to suffering from cardiomyopathy. Once diagnosed, life expectancy can be just months. Thankfully, we’ve caught it early and managed to get him onto medication promptly but we don’t want to see him spending any more time than necessary in kennels.

“We’re looking for a very special family who are willing to take Rocco into their home and give him the best life possible for however long he has left.”

Anyone who wishes to help by fostering Rocco can email dogs@rspcaessexsouth.org.uk.