Q. I love taking my dog for walks, but she invariably eats something nasty — cat poop, stray garbage, even those “crispy frogs” plastered to the road on a hot day. Is there anything I can do to curb this disgusting habit?
Quite apart from the “ick” factor, “crispy frogs” could prove toxic if they are from the toad species known as Bufus marinus or Bufo. Then there’s the inevitable diarrhea to clean up after she comes down with the condition we veterinarians call “garbage gut.” And how about the possibility of picking up intestinal parasites from cat scat?
In other words, your problem isn’t merely that her behavior turns your stomach; it’s patently unsafe and potentially expensive, too.
Here’s the short list of recommendations I offer my clients when this issue arises:
Abandon the retractable leash. These leads are not only unsafe for dogs who abuse the “endless leash” setting and manage to eat things they shouldn’t; they’re a bad idea when there’s traffic around, too.
Keep current on your parasite prevention protocol. It’s parasite central down here in the subtropics.
Consider a muzzle. Contrary to appearance and popular opinion, cage or basket muzzles are not cruel. A well-fitting one is every bit as humane and comfortable as a halter-style lead.
The versions I like are made of soft and pliable leather or fabric, with metal or plastic applied in ways that keep it both comfortable and functional. The very best have a safety strap that comes up the forehead for comfort and stability.
Though you may not like the Hannibal Lecter look, muzzles start to seem pretty darn charming when you consider that the alternatives are “crispy frogs” and big vet bills.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.