Norman Clarkson, of Palmerston, asks :-

How can a dog bury a piece of meat, and then later when it is really stinking dig it up and eat it without any apparent bad effects?

Grant Guilford, of the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences at Massey University, responded.

Dogs have evolved for many hundreds of years as omnivores. They eat both animal and plant tissue.

At times they kill live prey but they also are adapted to scavenging and to eating whatever food scraps that humans do not want to eat. Over the years this "lifestyle" has resulted in dogs being able to tolerate many of the bacteria, moulds and toxins that occur in spoilt foods.

Exactly how this resistance occurs is unknown. It may be that dogs do not absorb as much toxin from the gut as some other species such as people. Dogs may also metabolise these toxins more quickly or more effectively than other species.

Whatever the reason, it is important to note that dogs still do get food poisoning on some occasions. Perhaps when dogs do get food poisoning they have eaten particularly large amounts of food toxins or a certain type of toxin they are susceptible to. For this reason it is important not to give dogs spoiled food on the assumption they will be able to tolerate it. Dogs which develop food poisoning can become very ill with vomiting and diarrhoea and liver damage.