Why Vets Don’t Throw Sticks to Their Dogs: Understanding the Risks

Why Vets Don't Throw Sticks to Their Dogs_ Understanding the Risks AREC Vet

Just like you, our team at AREC Vet love being outside with our dogs playing games like fetch. But here’s something you probably won’t see Vets doing: throwing sticks for our dogs to fetch.


So what’s the problem with throwing sticks?


1. Risk of Major Injury:

One of the key reasons veterinarians advise against throwing sticks for dogs is the risk of serious injury. At AREC, we’ve seen numerous cases where dogs have suffered severe stick-related injuries, such as impalement into the chest and abdomen (in separate incidents). These dangers are real and potentially life-threatening.


2. Potential for Mouth and Dental Injuries:

When dogs fetch sticks, the process of grasping them with their mouths can result in mouth injuries such as tooth fractures, chipped teeth, or lacerations to the gums or tongue. Unlike dog toys specifically designed for safe chewing, sticks have hard, irregular and rough surfaces. Over time, repeated exposure to sticks can wear down the enamel of the dog’s teeth, leading to long-term dental issues.


3. Potential for abscesses secondary to splinters

Another significant concern with throwing sticks for dogs is the potential for splinters and abscess formation. Splinters from sticks easily lodge in the mouth and then infection can set in, manifesting as painful abscesses. The splinters can migrate within the tissue before infection develops, resulting in abscess formation anywhere along the trajectory of the splinter. A common location for infection to develop from splinters from sticks is behind the eye, leading to the development of a retrobulbar abscess. Abscesses and splinters not only cause significant pain for the dog but can also pose serious health risks if left untreated. Diagnostic tests such as CT scan may be required to identify the exact location of the splinter(s) in order to safely remove them, and a specialist surgeon may be required to perform this often-difficult surgery.


4. Risk of Choking or Airway Obstruction:

Dogs, in their enthusiasm to retrieve sticks, may accidentally swallow or inhale portions of the stick, leading to choking or airway obstruction. Even small fragments of wood can become lodged in the throat or windpipe, posing a life-threatening emergency. In some cases the stick travels deep into the dog’s throat or oesophagus, requiring endoscopic retrieval or surgical removal under anaesthesia. The damage done by the stick can be extensive and potentially life-threatening.


Safer Alternatives for Playtime:

While avoiding stick throwing, there are numerous safer alternatives for engaging in interactive play with your dog. Fetch with dog-safe toys that are soft, durable and specifically designed for fetching, such as rubber balls or frisbees. These toys are less likely to cause injury or harm to your dog’s mouth, teeth, or throat, while allowing your dog the pleasure of playing fetch with you.

So the next time your dog asks you to throw a stick, remember the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones” and leave the stick where it belongs: on the ground.

By choosing safer alternatives for playtime and being mindful of potential hazards, you can protect your furry friend from unnecessary risks and ensure many happy and healthy years together.


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