Owners told to throw rubber sticks, balls or Frisbees instead after report of a collie getting a 10cm stick stuck in its throat
Leading vets are warning dog owners about the dangers of throwing sticks for their pets to fetch after a reported rise in life-threatening injuries.
Grace Webster, president of the British Veterinary Association in Scotland, told owners on Wednesday to stop throwing pieces of wood after a report of a dog in Scotland being badly injured after it got a 10cm stick stuck in its throat.
Instead, throwing rubber sticks from pet shops, balls or Frisbees were safer alternatives, Webster told the Times (£). She said: “Throwing sticks for your dog can be dangerous and lead to horrific injuries that can be very distressing for both you and your dog, such as causing cuts to their mouths and tongues or, as in this case, getting the stick lodged in their throat.
“Even when the initial wound is treated, splinters of wood have often got stuck and require subsequent operations.”
Sean Wensley, president of the British Veterinary Association, said vets nationally were familiar “with the very serious, potentially life threatening injuries that can be caused by throwing sticks for dogs”.
He said the effects of stick damage on pets had been “studied by our academic colleagues and the Royal Veterinary College and elsewhere. Of course not every dog chasing a stick will be fatally injured, but some of them are,” he said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Our colleagues in practice are seeing probably around one stick-related injury a month. Others say it’s more than that.”
Wensley said the types of injury vets commonly saw involved thrown sticks that had fallen to the ground, where “the dog is running typically at a pace after it, and the stick is forced down the dog’s throat – it’s essentially impaled on that stick”.
“The stick itself is dirty, the mouth cavity is full of bacteria as well, and in that process inoculate bacteria into structures within the body, as well as damaging the oesophagus, the spinal cord – causing paralysis, and so on,” Wensley said, before adding that some dogs had to be put down due to the the injuries inflicted while fetching a stick, or after a fatal infection.
“Of course we try and get on top of that infection a soon as possible or indeed prevent it in the first place by acting swiftly. But fragments of wood are a very common problem, with subsequent chronic infection. That then spreads to other organs in the body and it’s a life threatening infection that often can kill the dog,” Wensley said.
He added, however, there were plenty of dog-safe toys: “We don’t want to stop people having fun; we don’t want [to stop] dogs being mentally stimulated and really enjoying going for a walk and playing. But make good use of the really quality dog-safe toys that serve the same purpose.”
Not everyone backed the advice of the vets. Ben Fogle, the TV presenter, said: “We’ve been warned not to throw sticks for our dogs to prevent injury? I’ve thrown sticks for 35 yrs without a problem. Have sticks changed?”
The latest warnings came after it emerged in Lanarkshire press this week that a smooth collie called Maya had to undergo an emergency operation after a 4in-long stick punctured her tongue and displaced its voicebox.
Cath Pryde from Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire in Scotland, told the Herald: “I was out for a walk with my mum and as usual, Maya wanted me to throw a stick for her. She was racing along and the next thing she stopped suddenly and started limping,” Pryde said.
“I thought at first she had stood on something but when we got back to the house she wouldn’t open her mouth and was very subdued.She wouldn’t eat and drink, and later on her jawline became swollen.. We took her to the vet and they sedated her and then pulled out this long stick from her throat. We had no idea that was the problem. There had been no blood or any other clues.”
The four-year-old collie has reportedly made a full recovery.
This article was written by Aisha Gani, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 20th January 2016 11.10 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010