Their fondness for swallowing everything from socks and rat poison to gravel and even fish hooks has seen the Labrador named New Zealand’s naughtiest dog breed.
Southern Cross Pet Insurance received more claims for Labradors than any other type of canine in 2019 and, in what won’t be a surprise to Lab owners, eating things they shouldn’t have was the most common reason for vet visits.
One in eight pure-bred dogs in New Zealand is a Labrador, with about 41,000 currently registered - 10,000 more than nearest rival, the border collie.
Labradors are popular as guide dogs, drug detection dogs, therapy dogs and, of course, pets.
In the past year alone, Southern Cross has received nearly $1.5 million in claims for illnesses, injuries and accidents involving Labradors.
In the absence of publicly funded healthcare for man’s best friend, surgical removal of foreign objects can add up to thousands of dollars for uninsured owners.
Southern Cross Pet Insurance General Manager Anthony McPhail said Labradors are playful, sociable and stable by nature, which makes them wonderful pets.
“Labradors devote themselves to their families, and they deserve our love, attention and care in return.
“However, they are also highly energetic and have big appetites, so they are prone to eating things they shouldn’t and getting into trouble if they are bored.
“New Zealand has one of the world’s highest pet ownership statistics, but insurance rates here are low compared to other pet-loving nations. It leaves a lot of dog owners worse off when something goes wrong.”
Certain items proved particularly inviting for hungry or curious Labradors in 2019, with the most common claims to Southern Cross Pet Insurance involving injuries or illnesses as a result of:
• Beach-related mishaps such as swallowing fish hooks, sinkers, seaweed, shells or bait; fish hooks embedded in paws, tongues and lips; cuts to paws.
• Wolfing down clothing such as socks and underwear.
• Ingesting stones, including peach stones, gravel, grass or seeds.
• Eating poison, the most popular being rat poison.
Other claims related to swallowing rubber gloves, pieces of broken crockery, toys, tea towels, skewers, cans, plastic, compost and medicines.
Helen Beattie, New Zealand Veterinary Association Chief Veterinary Officer, said veterinarians do see Labradors presenting with gastrointestinal disorders and bowel obstructions.
“This is due to the dog eating something they shouldn’t, resulting in vomiting and/or diarrhoea, and sometimes surgery,” she said.
“Owners can reduce the chances of this happening by taking preventive measures so their Labrador doesn’t get access to items that might seem appealing but are actually unsuitable for eating. Labradors are not always good at telling the difference!
“Make sure they have other safe things to play with and occupy their time, enough exercise, plenty of interaction with people and other dogs, and always monitor what they are picking up in their mouths.”