VET’S DIARY: Some dogs will make a meal of anything going

Having been without a dog for 15 months after the death of our much-loved Staffy, we eventually acquired a Labrador puppy just over a year ago, writes David Young.

However, we had forgotten the behavioural traits and demands of a young dog.

The boisterous, chewing early months have gradually merged into a ‘slightly’ more obedient, calmer phase provided she is regularly exercised. This has allowed my wife and I to lose several pounds in weight and attain a level of fitness unknown to us for several years!

One trait that has not fully abated is stealing an object from a bench and carrying it around in her mouth like a trophy and, if it is edible, eating it.

Food, to her, is fair game and must be stored out of reach.

Scarves, gloves, socks, tea towels and dish cloths are to be carried around like a comfort toy round and round the table, but can often end up being chewed. Her nose can often be found investigating my wife’s handbag or my son’s cricket kit and while on the beach, the taste of seaweed kelp must be so appetising judging by the difficulty in trying to remove it from her.

I am often accused of being quite paranoid about these potential ‘foreign bodies’ by my family, but over the years I have removed some quite bizarre objects from the gastrointestinal tract of numerous breeds of dogs and Labradors are extremely well-represented with clothing, stones and seaweed kelp being the most commonly found.

Several years ago I removed five golf balls from the stomach of a dog, some of which had been there for months judging by their decaying state. The saying goes that things often run in threes, but recently, just before I departed on holiday to celebrate a significant birthday, I found out that in February and early March, foreign bodies came in fours!

The objects found inside these dogs varied from a hard rubber toy in one dog to another with some matted hair, chocolate egg silver foil, thread and a sewing needle all lodged together – this was the second blockage in two to three years for this particular dog.

Later on in the same week there were two further serious cases where one dog had a knee-length sports sock blocking the colon and the other with a particularly nasty situation where a piece of shredded fabric was partially lodged in the stomach and the other shredded part had moved into the smal intestine causing the bowel to be pulled up like a concertina, resulting in the fabric behaving like a cheese wire and therefore severe damage to the intestines. This resulted in it having a considerable amount of the intestines removed.

It is often thought that soft fabric objects are safer than solid objects, but if the fabrics fray and shred they can cause very serious problems.

Unfortunately, seaweed kelp and fabrics do not show up on X-ray and require the dogs to be regularly monitored after careful palpation of the abdomen to detect any swelling and tenderness.

During our recent holiday I was amazed to learn that it is not only dogs that appear to swallow unusual objects.

On a visit to an ostrich farm we were warned not to get too close with our cameras or with any hand or arm displaying a sparkling ring or bracelet as the ostriches had a tendency to steal and then swallow any shiny object.

This was further endorsed by the farmer who showed us a framed collection of sparkling, metallic objects (which included a set of keys and a watch chain) found after a post mortem on an ostrich which had died suddenly several years ago.

The moral of the story is to keep one step ahead of your young puppy by trying to foresee some of these potentially dangerous situations.

Needless to say I try to practice what I preach, but regularly find myself chasing the pup around the garden as she throws my new gloves into the air!