A FAMILY is devastated after their beloved pedigree bulldog collapsed and died suddenly during a grooming session at a pet store.

Henry, an 11-month-old English Bulldog puppy, was taken to Pets At Home, in Stratton, for a grooming session on Sunday. But just five minutes later his owners had a call from the store to say he had suffered a fit and died.

Graham Allison and his partner Rebecca Avenell are distraught by his untimely death as he was set to be the ringbearer when they married in May.

As yet there has been no formal explanation of why Henry died and Graham, a director at a security firm, said he is due to meet with representatives of the pet shop chain following an internal investigation.

But Graham, of Old Town, said he was told by store staff that groomers had cleaned Henry’s ears, brushed his teeth and sprayed a foam breath freshener in his mouth – which is what Graham believes may have caused him to fit.

“This has ripped our family apart,” the 40-year-old said.

“A lot of people will just say ‘oh it’s a dog’ but any pet owner will tell you they mean more than that – he was part of our family.

“My step-daughter Lauren dropped him off at Pets At Home at 3pm and then just five minutes later she got a call to say he was dead, with no explanation why.

“They said all they had done in that five minutes was his ears, teeth and sprayed this breath freshener chemical in his mouth.

“That is when he started fitting and foaming.

“We went in to speak to the manager and they asked us if we wanted a post-mortem but it’s bad enough as it is without cutting him open.

“Henry had never had any health problems and was the best puppy you could hope for. His mother and father were award-winning dogs and we picked him up from a reputable breeder in Mansfield.

“It isn’t about money but we paid £1,800 for him and he was Kennel Club registered.

“The worst thing is, we get married in May and Henry was supposed to bring the rings down the aisle.”

It is not the first time a pet has died in the care of groomers at Pets At Home – in Sheffield in 2010 a shih-tzu puppy died after staff put her in a drying cage following a routine hair cut.

Graham said he wants answers from the store and is meeting with management in the near future.

He said: “We had taken him to Pets At Home twice before for grooming and I’ve never heard of them spraying anything in their mouth before.

“I’ve been contacted by the manager, who wants to meet somewhere neutral.”

A Pets At Home spokesman aid Henry had undergone the same treatments as his previous two visits.

He said: “We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Henry and our thoughts are with his family.

“On this occasion, our groomer had only got as far as cleaning Henry’s ears and teeth when he suddenly collapsed.

“Henry was quickly attended to by the in-store veterinary team who were able to establish an airway but they were unable to save him.

“We would like to carry out a full investigation into Henry’s death and we urge his family to allow us to arrange a post-mortem and access to veterinary records.”