The health dangers of scavenging
Scavenging seems like a harmless habit, but for Flash the Beagle, it caused a near- death experience
Beagles are a popular breed, but people don't realise that as well as having charming personalities, they also have challenging behaviours.
First, they are escape artists who love roaming. And second, they have a rich sense of smell, and they love exploring the world with their nose, eating anything remotely edible that they come across.
When Flash goes for walks, she heads off straining at the leash, with her nose pressed to the ground.
She follows a trail of scent with dedication: nothing Maureen can do will distract her.
If she finds anything interesting while she is sniffing around, she eats it at once: Maureen can't stop her.
She'll eat food that's been dropped to the ground, rotten leaves, wildlife carcasses, mushrooms, plants and pieces of wood.
She'll also chew any litter that's lying around. In fact, there's very little that Flash won't try to eat.
There's another reason why Maureen is nervous about letting Flash off the leash: she doesn't come back when called, and she barks at other dogs.
In public areas where there are other people and dogs around, it's too risky to let her run free.
When she was young, Flash's behaviour was a charming but challenging part of her personality, but in the past year, Maureen has discovered that a dog's scavenging habit can be an expensive and life-threatening problem.
From time to time, Flash suffers from vomiting and diarrhoea after scoffing rubbish. This usually settles down following a simple period of fasting and bland food, but on one occasion last summer, Flash became worse rather than better.
She was dull and dejected, refusing to touch her supper and vomiting repeatedly. Maureen brought her to our clinic, and she was diagnosed with pancreatitis, a severe inflammation of the pancreas that's often linked with scavenging behaviour. Flash had to be hospitalised, and was put on an intravenous drip and multiple medications for several days.
Without this intensive treatment, she could have died, but fortunately, she responded well, and made a full recovery.
Since that episode, Maureen has done her best to control Flash's scavenging, but just last week, she fell ill again after another sneaked feast.
Maureen now wants to buy a muzzle to prevent Flash from eating anything that might upset her stomach. As an extra precaution, I've suggested that she teaches Flash the "leave it" command.
This is done by having the tastiest possible treats in your pocket: when you say "leave it", she immediately drops whatever she has in her mouth, and you give her a treat.
It takes time and patience to teach her this, but once she has learned the command, it can help to control the worst of a dog's scavenging behaviour.
Maureen may need the help of a good dog trainer to help her and at the same time, it will be helpful for Flash to re-learn about coming back reliably when called.
Flash is a lovely, gentle dog, but if her scavenging and her refusal to come back can be sorted out with some good and consistent dog training, she will be a pet who fits in even better with her human companions.
Owner: Maureen Duggan from Bray
Pet: Flash, her five-year-old Beagle
Background: Flash developed a serious illness called pancreatitis after eating rubbish while out on walks