BY CRAIG REILLY
QOur Labrador has been into the vets for three separate operations over the last two years. She is only three now, but she just eats anything and everything — each time she has been vomiting terribly and very miserable. The vet has removed a sock, a stone and some seaweed now. We are at our wits end. She is insured, thank goodness, but we are so worried she will die if it happens again. We are thinking of muzzling her. What do you think? Frank, Belfast
ADear Frank, I’m sorry to hear you are having such trouble keeping your wee one out of the vets! I am afraid we see this quite a lot — some dogs only seem to have one obstruction in their lives, but we have a good number of serial offenders.
For us, seaweed is a very common cause of bowel blockage, because we live by the sea, but underwear is a favourite too. Puppies learn to explore the world with their mouths, and I guess some just don’t ever break that habit.
I think that you are right to consider muzzling her when you are out on walks, or if she is unattended in the garden. In the house I guess you just need to be super tidy, and avoid the opportunity for her to access the laundry basket.
I would say you should not rely on lead exercise as the sole prevention when you’re out, as I have seen cases where even lead-walked dogs get hold of stones or similar and end up in theatre.
If you are going to use a muzzle it is important to get the correct type. The traditional Mikki fabric muzzles are great for very short use, but are totally inappropriate for exercising in or for wearing for longer periods.
The Baskerville type (as seen worn by greyhounds) are much better. Correctly fitted, dogs can breathe normally and run and play wearing them. They can lap water but crucially, cannot pick up food or foreign bodies — success!
I know you will get some snide comments from people who think she may be aggressive. Ignore those people. It is far, far better to prevent more surgeries and you are right that not all operations end well.
Good luck and I hope her future visits to your vet are just for more routine things like vaccinations and wormers! Craig is a Clinical Director in Cedarmount Veterinary Clinic, Bangor www.cedarmountvets.co.uk. He can only respond to questions through this column, and these answers cannot substitute for treatment decisions based on a full history and clinical examination by your vet