Dog owners are being warned to be extra-cautious after two dogs died and one was left in a life-threatening condition as a result of eating rotten food.
Over the last eight months, four dogs thought to have eaten mouldy food scavenged from bins and rubbish bags have been brought to Borders Vets, which has branches in Galashiels, Selkirk and Innerleithen.
The most recent case involved a one-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier from Hawick who was rushed to the Gala Terrace vets after he helped himself to rotten food which had been thrown out in a biodegradable food waste bag.
It is thought that Bailey ate old spare ribs from the bag when he was taken out into the garden before bedtime but just 15 minutes later, he started to show symptoms of toxic poisoning.
As his temperature started to reach dangerously high levels, his movements became uncoordinated as he trembled and started to fit.
Bailey was so ill that his owner, 46-year-old Paul Lamb and his wife Cheryl, 45, were told to prepare for the worst.
However, vet surgeon Mel Broad managed to make him bring up around three litres of rotten food as well as the biodegradable bag it had been wrapped in.
Paul, a Hawick-based aerial network installer, said: “I saw Bailey eat something that looked like mouldy Chinese takeaway from a rubbish bag and took it off him, but in the space of 15 minutes he was shaking and staggering about like he was drunk.
“It must have been about 10.30 at night when we finally got to the vets.
“He stayed for three days after they worked on him all night. They had to keep him in because he was disorientated and they needed to check is he had suffered any brain damage.
“I didn’t get to see him again until three days later when I picked him up as not to upset him while he recovered.
“Thankfully he’s fully recovered now. He’s 100%.”
Mel said: “We see around half a dozen cases a year like this and we don’t always know what precisely has been ingested.
“With Bailey’s case, we have now had three similar cases.
“Tragically, the first two died but the third was seen eating something in the garden so we were able to definitively link the signs to eating mouldy food.
“If ever there is a suspicion of poisoning, knowing what they ate can make all the difference to the outcome because we can give specific treatment.
“If an owner can bring a sample, it makes our job so much easier. We use a fantastic toxicology service that can test food samples, as well as clinical samples, to help narrow down the cause.
“Slug bait is particularly dangerous and most people are aware to keep garden chemicals out of reach of pets, but not everyone realises how toxic a mouldy loaf in your food bin could be.
“Food waste bins should be securely locked and disposable bags securely tied to prevent pets scavenging.”
Paul is now urging pet owners not to dump rubbish where animals can access it.
Luckily Bailey has made a full recovery and is back home with his two owners and Buddy, their six-year-old Staffie.