Queen warned to keep dogs on leads as pooch dies of mystery Sandringham disease

The Queen has been warned to keep the royal dogs on a lead this week after one pooch died and two others remain seriously ill after contracting a mystery canine disease with no known cure after a visit to the Sandringham Estate.

Holidaymaker Maggie Hands' six-year-old Shih Tzu, Kiki, had to be put down from the effects of Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI), which the pet contracted after a visit to the Sandringham Estate.

SCI remains a bit of a mystery in the veterinary world with its exact cause unknown, but it is generally picked up in woodland during the autumn and symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, abdominal pain, fever and muscular tremors.

The Queen and Prince Philip arrived at Sandringham on Thursday after leaving her Scottish residence of Balmoral, marking the end of the monarch's annual summer holiday.

She is known to take her beloved pet dogs with her when she travels to her various estates, meaning she may now have to take extreme caution when walking them around Sandringham – if she does so at all.

Mrs Hands, from Bedford, stayed at Sandringham’s Camping and Caravanning Club with her partner and their three dogs last weekend and says she took the dogs on walks in the adjacent woods several times, Eastern Daily Press reports.

But having travelled home on Sunday, the couple realised in the early hours of Monday that something was very wrong with Kiki, Jessie, a Yorkshire Terrier, and Minnie, a Bichon Frise.

“They just started vomiting in the night,” said Mrs Hands. “They were clearly in a lot of pain and retching to the point where their bodies were shaking – it was dreadful.

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“At first I thought they had eaten something they shouldn’t have, but then I remembered on the campsite leaflet we were given it mentions some dogs falling ill with SCI.

“They spent three days in the vets on fluids, antibiotics, painkillers. Jessie and Minnie came home on Wednesday night, but there was nothing they could do for Kiki and it was kinder to let her go.”

Despite SCI supposedly being a rare illness, numerous cases have been registered in Sandringham before, the first of which was reported in 2010.

The 58-year-old, who is facing vet bills of £2,500, added: “I don’t like blaming anyone, but there needs to be clear signage so this doesn’t happen again.

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“There was no clear warning that it can be fatal, so we didn’t think anything of it. I know it is supposedly rare but it has killed one of my dogs and made the others very poorly.”

And now a top UK vet has issued a warning to anyone thinking of walking their dog in the area.

Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Online, Dr Jessica May, UK lead veterinarian at the video vet service FirstVet, said: "This is not the first case of Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) found on the Sandringham Estate.

"In fact, the first case of SCI was reported on the Sandringham Estate in 2010.

"Although it had been seen previously, it was only in 2010 that it was classified as a disease.

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"Cases tend to be found in woodland East Anglia, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Warwickshire from August to November, peaking in September."

Dr May added that if a dog starts vomiting or appears lethargic after a walk in the woods, then they need to be taken to the vet immediately for assessment.

Nobody is sure what causes SCI, but there are several theories. These range from allergic reactions to mushrooms, algae, agricultural chemicals and infection from harvest mites.

She said that it is thought to be unlikely that the mushroom theory is correct, but harvest mites "are still a concern as some dogs infected with SCI have been infested with mites".

"Those walking their dogs should look out for small clusters of tiny orange insects on their fur," Dr May added.

"These are harvest mites, which jump onto the fur of nearby animals, including dogs.

"They live on thin areas of skin and can live there for around two or three days, around the ears or between the toes. They can also be found around the stomach, armpits, chin and lips.

"Little is known about SCI, so it is difficult to diagnose and, unfortunately, there is no known cure. For any infected dogs, hospitalisation is likely to be required, with possible treatments including intravenous fluids and anti-nausea medication.

"Antibiotics can also be used, but there is no guarantee that this will be effective. Sadly, this means the disease can often be fatal for dogs like Kiki.

"To protect dogs from this illness, they should be kept on the lead during woodland walks, or even avoid the affected area completely. They should also be hydrated after walks and checked for any harvest mites."

A Sandringham Estate spokesperson said: “Sandringham Estate takes care to inform visitors of the signs and symptoms of seasonal canine illness and recommends caution when walking dogs in dense woodland areas during autumn.”

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