Love Dogs... Love Nature

Love your pet.. love your vet... Hillside's July health news

Playing fetch with sticks can harm your dog

Did you know that throwing sticks for your dogs can be extremely dangerous?  We urge dog owners not to throw sticks for their dogs as they can cause terrible injuries and even result in death on rare occasions.

At Hillside Vets in Corfe Mullen, we probably see several stick injuries a year and estimate this would be the same for most vet practices.  A case we had that caused a terrible oral injury a couple of years ago caused a huge stir on social media with over 5000 Facebook shares from our posted photo and associated comments.

Most of the injuries from sticks are puncture wounds sustained from running onto a stick that is rammed into the ground.  This then forces it down their throat and cutting under the tongue or even tearing the gullet further back.  It is very painful and traumatic for the dog.  Imagine ramming a toothbrush at the end of your mouth, except it’s spiky and sharp!  This can damage the mouth, the voice-box and food pipe and even penetrate into the chest cavity.  Often splinters of wood can get stuck requiring at least one operation.  Sometimes pet owners don’t notice until their dog is off its food and not him/herself ­ this is unfortunately when infection can become very serious.

A few years ago the President elect of the British Veterinary Association, said owners risk causing 'horrendous problems’ to their pets.  He spoke out to the media after new guidance for vets suggested they should use modern imaging (CT scans) to detect splinters from sticks that would otherwise be missed on a routine check or x-ray in severe cases of stick injuries. It was advised that dog owners should only use rubber sticks from pet shops, balls or frisbees.

Further evidence of the potential seriousness of the problem was highlighted by the soft tissue and ENT specialists who were quizzed at the same time. “Every generation thinks throwing a stick to a dog is the best thing.  It never seems to get into national psyche that in fact it’s a bad thing to do.  Use a ball, rubber bones or soft toys.”

Tennis balls
On another matter, tennis ball coverings can be abrasive to your dog’s teeth but in our experience, normally, with moderate use, this is not a huge problem.  However, if your dog is one of those dogs who becomes rather obsessed with tennis balls, then you may want to consider a good quality rubber ball instead.

To avoid all these complications and risks, the best advice from us is use a proper throw toy for your dog however tempted you are just to pick up a stick and throw it!

Keith Moore BVSc MRCVS, Associate Veterinary Surgeon, Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen.  w:

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