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LA STAMPA

Mystery Dog Illness In UK: The Queen Intervenes

After several dogs die at her English estate, Queen Elizabeth orders probe

the queen loves her corgis

LONDON - Perhaps it's some sort of poison, or a mystery fungus. Whatever the cause, the canine-loving Queen Elizabeth II must also be fearing for the lives of her own beloved corgis after the unexplained death of several other dogs last month at her Sandringham estate. Indeed, the queen has decided to ask the "Animal Health Trust" to conduct an inquiry.

Elizabeth is known to be very protective of her corgis, a Welsh herding breed that has been part of her life since one arrived in 1933 as a present from her father, King George VI. The queen still personally feeds her dogs every day between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., and has occasionally brought them on holiday to Sandringham, a sprawling park that has belonged to the British monarchs since 1962. Open to the public, Sandringham has always been a safe place for dogs to run. Until now.

The symptoms of the dogs' mysterious disease include vomiting and diarrhea, followed by a lethargic state and then, in some cases, death within 24 hours. Are the four-legged victims dying at the hands of nature, or are they being poisoned by man?

The last one to die was Bertie, a two-year-old King Charles Spaniel with a white and brown, silky fur. Bertie died last Monday after 24 hours of agony and a weekend in Sandringham, the Norfolk estate where the queen spends her Christmas holidays with her corgis.

Berties's owners, Mr. and Mrs. Broughton, who own land in nearby Lincoln, brought the dog to Sandringham over the weekend and let him run free, without losing sight of him. As they returned home, they noticed something was wrong. The first symptom was diarrhea, then the dog started vomiting. He was shaking and could not keep his eyes open. According to the Broughton's account, Bertie remained on the couch for 24 hours before dying.

Nobody knows exactly why, but by now one thing is clear: the surrounding area has become a death trap. The nearby Thetford Forest, Clumber Park and the Sherwood Forest have also seen cases of dogs falling ill to mysterious illnesses. Between September and October, about 10 dogs died, and dozens have become sick. Overall in the last 12 months, 30 dogs have died from these unknown causes.

Toxic algae, a bacterial infection or poison are seen as possible causes. Veterinarians say the dogs don't even have to swallow anything to feel sick – a simple touch of the tongue is all it takes. They have put up signs at the park's entrance urging owners to keep their dogs on the main pathway.

Dr. Janice Dixon says that the most dangerous period is between September and December. "Humidity rises and the light changes. The woods become more dangerous," she said. "Maybe it's poisonous mushrooms." She added that cold weather in January and February should reduce the dangers.

As part of its investigation, the Animal Health Trust has asked dog owners who have visited the park to answer a questionnaire. Among those who have visited the park are Nigel and Janette Young, two architects from Nottinghamshire, and their son Richard, who took their six small white highland terriers. They say two of their dogs got sick after their visit to Sandringham, and a third one is being checked by a veterinarian after being struck by a strange and sudden form of lethargy. Richard asks anxiously: "He'll be all right, won't he?"

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