A Highland woman’s dog became a casualty of the pandemic earlier this month – after a stray face mask forced an emergency trip to the vets.
Linda Harper’s cairn terrier Malcolm guzzled down a discarded disposable face covering on a walk to the town’s Farmers’ Showfield and needed an injection to make him be sick to get it out.
Mrs Harper has hit out at those recklessly discarding used masks in the street for fear of other animals being hurt and is urging users to bin their rubbish.
Vets have warned if the mask had been left to be digested, the straps could have caused “serious damage” to Malcolm’s insides.
Some pets have had to go under the knife to have masks tangled around their intestines removed, and his dismayed owner said she’d been “lucky” the 13-year-old pooch was so close to the vet’s surgery.
Mrs Harper took to Facebook to share her concerns and was inundated with similar stories from other dog users.
She told The P&J: “We were just out on our usual walk, which is quite near our vets, luckily, and he saw something on the ground and wolfed it.
“I saw it sticking out his mouth so I tried to get it and that, of course, just made him swallow it faster.
“But I saw what it was as it went down and took him straight to the vets, luckily just round the corner.
“He had an injection to make him sick, which was horrible to watch as he was shaking and staggering for around 10 minutes, as if he was having a fit.
“It’s not just greedy dogs I’m worried about, it could be any animal.
“If it were someone’s outside cat they might not see it happen and their pet might just never come back.”
Malcolm soon recovered from his ordeal and was well enough the next morning to “try and eat a burst balloon,” his owner said.
Environmental groups have long been warning of a new pollution plight coinciding with the pandemic.
Greenpeace estimates 129 billion disposable face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves are now being used each month.
A recent study suggested if every person in the UK used a single-use plastic face mask every day for a year, it would create an additional 66,000 tonnes of contaminated waste and 57,000 tonnes of plastic packaging.
The Marine Conservation Society, which organises the annual Great British Beach Clean, hopes to gain a more accurate understanding of the amount of personal protective equipment being found along the coast.
Earlier this week, Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, pleaded with the public to make use of reusable face coverings instead of single-use plastic alternatives.
“At a time when it has never been more important that we can enjoy our time outdoors, it has been particularly galling that some people have been littering face coverings,” he said.