The domestic dog is an obligate scavenger. The food discarded by humans has played a vital rôle in the domestication of the dog and most dogs in the world continue to live by scavenging from rubbish dumps with some eating scrap food supplied by humans.
Like so many natural behaviours, this can become a maladaption once dogs live in urban environment with their food served up when humans decide that it should be. Dealing with a dog that cannot resist scavenging can be stressful for handlers and even prove fatal for dogs.
Covid-19 has brought many additional stresses into our lives and for dog owners that has meant dealing with the extra burden of discarded face masks and gloves. It wasn’t long into the first lockdown 12 months ago that the first detritus stared appearing on pavements and in parks and that has escalated, along with a horrendous increase in fly-tipping in urban and rural areas.
Puppies explore everything with their mouths but age is no barrier to dogs ingesting unsuitable items. Socks and underwear are favourites because dogs are attracted to the scent that human bodies leave on them. Some American vets even have a competition for the most bizarre object removed from their patients. They of course were the lucky ones that survived.
Riccardo Minelli from Abington Park Veterinary Group in Northampton has provided a video of the procedure that he performed when removing a face mask and a sock from a 3 year old Cockerpoo that was one of the lucky ones.
Don’t let your dog add to the statistics: keep objects out of reach, get help from a qualified, non-aversive trainer to teach your dog to leave discarded objects and food alone when on walks and of course, dispose of PPE responsibly.