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How to avoid a sticky situation

by Lauren Samet

From those of you that are new to dog ownership to those of you that are experienced pet owners, you may have heard about why it is not such a good idea throwing sticks for dogs…

Being concerned with animal health and keeping your pet the right weight, vets and our nutritionists are keen for owners to play fetch and encourage exercise in your canine companions, however several incidents of “horrendous injuries” has led to the British Veterinary Association suggesting that dog owners should stop throwing sticks for their dogs and use balls or other toys instead.

Sticks been linked to serious injuries

Sticks been linked to serious injuries in our four-legged friends that have included spearing of necks and abdomens, gouging eyes and throats, and deep splinters catching in the tongue, mouth, throat and further down the digestive tract. This can lead to infection and abscesses, the need for stitches and even the loss of eyes, not to mention the unnecessary pain and suffering your pet undergoes topped by some costly vets bills.

One practice which sees approximately 3,000 dogs per year reportedly sees approximately 20 stick related dog injuries per year. The injuries may not all be instantly obvious, signs of splinters and wounds in the mouth, tongue and throat may not initially be obvious, however swelling, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing and unusual behaviours can all be indicative of a foreign object in your dog’s system. Even chewing and swallowing sticks without a game of fetch first can cause splinters along the digestive tract and obstruction of food passage leading to serious repercussions and often the need for surgery.

Balls, squeaky toys and tugger ropes are all ideal stick substitutes

On the bright side balls, squeaky toys and tugger ropes are all ideal stick substitutes as they are generally cleaner than sticks (which may also be home to fungal spores or parasites) and generally more acceptable to let the dog bring home to continue the games with than a big piece of wood! Teaching a dog to pick up random detritus is also an issue if wood contains nails or splinters or your dog has a habit of ingesting foreign objects.

And it’s not just sticks that could be an issue, throwing stones and pebbles can be damaging to a dog’s health, causing broken teeth and premature enamel wear if repetitively carried out. Interestingly a veterinary associate of mine specializing in animal dentistry commented how the daily playing of fetch with balls on sand can eventually lead to increased enamel wear of teeth due to sand’s abrasive nature – as can using very hard toys to play with (which apparently is equally a problem for captive dolphins that fetch hard floating toys in water!).


In conclusion...

The message is clear, keep playing fetch with your pets and encourage daily exercise but drop the sticks. There is such a huge range of toys and ball throwers out there now on the market that sticks can be left where they lie. Christmas may have just passed but it’s never too late to treat your dog to a new toy!


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