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features

Queen calls in vets to investigate deadly animal virus on her Sandringham estate

By MICHAEL SEAMARK

The Queen has called in vets to investigate a mystery dog-killing disease sweeping Sandringham.
 
Pets have become ill after visiting woodland open to the public on her 20,000-acre Norfolk estate.
 
The disease, which follows a similar outbreak last autumn, has hit other woods across Britain with at least 30 dogs feared dead in the past two months. (NOTE: this article published October 2010)
 
At least two pets died after walking at Sandringham last year, more dogs have fallen ill in recent weeks and five are dead after visiting nearby Thetford Forest.
 
The return of the disease, which causes vomiting, dehydration, lethargy and diarrhoea, has baffled experts, prompting royal aides to call the Animal Health Trust charity to investigate.
 
Visitors to Sandringham are being given questionnaires asking whether or not their dog has become ill.
 
Those who have visited Thetford Forest, Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire since the beginning of August are also being asked to complete the eight-page questionnaires.
 
Theories about the cause of the illness include eating poisonous fungi and blue-green algae but none has proved conclusive. 
 
Charlotte Richardson’s springer spaniel Amber fell seriously ill after walking at Sandringham last month.
 
The dog has now recovered but Mrs Richardson, from Hull, said: ‘I wish we had been told that there was a potential concern before my dog was affected.’
 
She has set up a Facebook campaign group called ‘Stop our woodlands poisoning our dogs’.
 
Last Saturday the Mail reported that four West Highland terriers became ill after visiting a Lincolnshire wood with their owners.
 
The illness seems to vanish with the first frosts so it should have gone by the time the Queen arrives with her corgis for her traditional Christmas visit to Sandringham.
 
The Animal Health Trust is asking dog owners to fill out the questionnaires to help pin point the problem.
 
Peter Webbon, the charity's chief executive, said: 'We need the help of dog owners to gather information about this mysterious seasonal illness which is causing a number of dogs to become seriously ill.
 
'The illness comes on very quickly, usually within 24 hours, and causes vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy.
 
'We are asking dog owners who have walked their dogs in any of the four sites to fill in a questionnaire - regardless of whether your dog was taken ill or not.'
 
Mr Webbon added: 'Without the help of dog owners we won't get to the bottom of this. We really need people to fill in these questionnaires as soon as possible.
 
'There were cases of this illness at this time last year which ceased once the weather turned colder. We need to get information from people now so we can try to be better prepared next year.'  
 
The Camping and Caravanning Club has urged its members not to walk their dogs in woods around its site, which is a mile from Sandringham House.
 
A sign on the reception centre of its Sandringham site states: 'We are aware that some dogs have become ill whilst walking in the local woods.
 
 
October 2010

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