BY CRAIG REILLY

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS -

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

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