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The dangers of throwing sticks for your dog

We all know that playing fetch with our dogs is super fun and rewarding. It is almost an innate response to playing with our pups. We throw their toys for them – balls, rope toys or frisbee, but what if you forget their toy on a walk, maybe you think this stick will do – wait - did you know the humble stick is actually way more dangerous then you are lead to believe.

In fact throwing sticks for your dog can lead to critical and sometimes fatal injuries if not identified and treated promptly.

What can happen that can be so dangerous?

Sticks can be various shapes and sizes, they can be sharp and irregular on the edges, or thorny depending on the type of tree it has come from. These surfaces can cause small wounds and scrapes in the mouth. Worse still the splinters from sticks can lead to recurrent infections and abscesses.

In the emergency setting we see patients that have experienced implement of the stick, and this can happen when the dog goes to catch the stick in their mouths, and it can impale their throat which can cause, obstruction / choke, laceration of vital structure - oesophagus, trachea, blood vessels. In addition, if the stick is thrown and not caught directly but rebounds of the floor it can cause impalement into the dog, e.g. into the oral cavity or chest

Signs of stick injury

You may witnessed your dog have a stick injury that quite obviously causes injury such as impalement, or more subtle signs such as they may cry, or yelp on catching the stick.

You're dog may appear fine after initial trauma, but clinical signs can be delayed, seek veterinary care immediately after witnessing a trauma

Severe trauma requires URGENT veterinary treatment due to:

  • difficulty breathing - due to severe pharyngeal (throat) swelling or mediastinal emphysema (air from impalement of the stick into the neck and chest)

  • Throat obstruction from the stick

Early phase of trauma signs shown may include:

  • problems eating, or not eating

  • drooling

  • depression - lethargy

  • oral pain

  • pain on flexing of the neck

  • swollen neck/oral cavity

  • blood in the saliva

  • pain on opening of the mouth.

Chronic phase (days after) signs may include:

  • recurrent swelling or abscess of the head or neck, sometimes with a draining/pus filled wound tract on the neck

  • inappetence

  • lethargy

  • pain over site of wound or abscess

If you see or suspect a stick injury, you need to head to the vet clinic straight away.

Quick intervention is needed to avoid critical conditions worsening, or chronic injures from developing if left untreated.

Playing with pets should not result in the pain and distress of stick induced injuries.

To prevent this from happening to your beloved dog, avoid throwing sticks – balls, frisbees, rope toys are all safer alternatives to sticks and will not result in an emergency vet visit.

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