Throwing sticks - game or gamble?

1st February 2016

There has been a lot of discussion in the news recently about throwing sticks for dogs. Here at Bollington Veterinary Centre we see a number of stick injuries each year and unfortunately we have also seen the occasional death. It would be almost impossible to stop dogs picking up sticks to play with and generally this isn’t a harmful game. The problem comes when we throw the stick and it lands with one end buried in the ground and the other sticking out. Our enthusiastic friend chases after the stick and miss-times the grabbing of the shaft. The free end goes much deeper into the mouth than your dog intended, penetrating the soft structure around the palate and throat.

The end of the stick is not clean and forces dirt and bacteria deep into the tissue. Small bits of stick can also break off and be left behind creating an infected hole, which can be very painful and potentially fatal.

Signs of a stick injury are:

  • Sudden pain while retrieving a stick
  • Reluctance to open their mouth
  • Drooling saliva, which may be blood stained
  • Depression or unusually quiet behaviour
  • Reluctance to eat and/or drink
  • Reluctance to bark
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nose bleeding

What should you do?

If you think your dog has had a stick injury, call us on 01625 573375 and arrange to see one of our vets immediately. Sometimes the damage isn’t too bad and your pet will just need pain relief and a some antibiotics. If the damage is more severe or there is too much pain to allow a proper examination we will normally give your dog a general anaesthetic so we can examine the area and some of the hidden structures properly.

What else might be done?

If we suspect there may be fragments of stick we may x-ray the area and flush the hole to wash them out. Occasionally a CT scan is needed.

What can you do instead of throwing sticks?

There are lots of different toys that can act as safe alternatives to sticks. If you’re interested call in at our Bollington clinic and speak to our receptionists. We’d be pleased to help and advise you.