Why shouldn’t I throw sticks for my dog?

What dog owner doesn’t love to spend some quality time together playing a game of fetch? But what many owners don’t realise is that this innocent game can lead to severe injury and hefty vet bills if it involves sticks.

In 2017 the British Veterinary Association conducted a survey which reported 3 out of 4 vets had treated dogs for stick-related injuries in the previous year.

While this fun game may only cause a minor issue, such as a splinter stuck in the tongue, it will still be pretty painful for your canine friend. But far worse, stick-throwing can also cause life-threatening conditions. Sticks shatter as they hit the ground, which can pierce soft tissue in the throat or vital organs when your dog grabs hold of it. Even allowing your dog to have a good chew on a dirty stick can cause bacterial infections and abscesses if they inadvertently swallow a sharp splinter causing an injury to the mouth or throat.

Vets have reported serious injuries where dogs have been impaled through the chest or abdomen by a stick hitting the ground at an angle and the dog running into it. It’s certainly not a fun game if that happens. Any of these incidents are likely to require an operation to repair the damage.

It’s not always clear straight away that your dog may have been injured after your fun game together. It could be weeks before a nasty bacterial infection takes hold.

Some signs to be aware of include:

  • swelling in the face and neck
  • blood in the saliva
  • reluctance to eat or drink

If you suspect your dog has a stick injury or shows any of these signs, take them to your vet as soon as possible, as it could be life-threatening.

The good news is these horrible injuries can be avoided and it doesn’t mean you have to give up your dog’s favourite game. There are many dog-friendly toys available such as rubber sticks and frisbees. If you are unsure of which toys would be suitable, ask your vet for more information.

With an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.