Cora, a five year old cross-bred collie who became very ill after eating something “off” while on a walk.

Cora was found as a young adult stray dog, abandoned beside the road with four newly born puppies beside her. Her rescuer took her to ASH animal sanctuary, where she was allowed to raise her pups in comfort. Once the pups had been weaned, she was spayed, and that’s when Mary decided to take her on. She’s a quiet dog, full of good nature, and she settled very quickly into her new home.

Cora is a model family pet these days, but there is just one hang-over from her former life: she has a ravenous appetite. She eats her dinner as if she’s frightened that someone will take the food away from her. The Byrnes take care not to over-feed her: she’s at her ideal weight just now, but if she was given the opportunity, she’d eat much more food than needed, and she’s a dog who could easily become obese.

Her excessive appetite causes a serious problem in another way: she’s a passionate scavenger. When she’s on a walk, she spends much of her time foraging around, looking for anything that’s remotely edible. She sniffs out scraps of food, such as half eaten sandwiches or empty take-away wrappings, but that’s only the start of it. She also tries to eat substances that are disgusting and potentially dangerous. If she’s in a public park, she’ll seek out dog or cat faeces, and scoff it in a moment. Or she’ll find a dead bird or rabbit, and chomp her way through it before she can be stopped. On the beach, she rummages through piles of seaweed until she finds dead fish or seabirds, and she’ll tuck into them as if they’re delicacies.

Her poor taste in dining makes her very prone to gastroenteritis. Not surprisingly, her digestive system often rejects the garbage that she eats, and she suffers from episodes of vomiting and diarrhoea. The problem usually settles down with simple treatment, by fasting her for a day, then giving her bland food such as chicken and rice.

A few months ago, she must have eaten something particularly foul, and the usual treatment for an upset stomach didn’t work. She continued to be sick, and the Byrnes had to take her into the emergency vet. At the time, the vets were worried that she might have eaten something that was causing an obstruction, and she had to have a series of x-rays and blood samples. The tests showed that the problem was just a particularly severe bout of gastroenteritis, and she had to be kept on a drip for two days to prevent her from becoming dangerously dehydrated. She made a full recovery, but she didn’t learn from the experience: a week later, she was up to her usual tricks on walks, foraging under bushes and around the base of litter bins.

The Byrnes have learned that they need to keep her under tight control on walks. She’s kept on the lead as much as possible, only being allowed to run freely when they can be sure that there’s nothing in the vicinity for her to pick up. The problem is that she’s much better than humans at seeking out hidden “treats”, so incidents still happen from time to time. Mary is currently trying to teach her to obey a “leave it” command, but it isn’t easy. Cora’s appetite is often stronger than her desire to obey her owners.


  • Some dogs have an excessive appetite, which causes them to scavenge
  • If dogs eat spoiled food or other offensive substances, gastroenteritis often results
  • It’s best to train a dog to “leave it” on command from an early age

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