The warmer weather brings with it more outside activity for our family dog. Fetch is often a part of that outdoor experience. But what seems like harmless fun such as playing fetch with a stick can send a shudder down the spin of most Sydney veterinary clinics.
Here’s why smart Sydney veterinary clinics are asking responsible dog owners to ditch the stick!
Every time we engage in a friendly game of fetch, it’s like taking a chance in Russian roulette. You only have to walk into Sydney veterinary clinics or pet stores to see a wide variety of non-stick related fetch equipment. It’s not because we’re encouraging you to spend money on dog toys you don’t need. It’s because as the frontline in animal health, we see an awful lot of stick related and purely preventable injuries. That’s why Fox Valley Animal Hospital staff are saying ‘ditch the sticks’ to owners.
Let’s break it down in some of the commonly asked questions we receive about sticks and what happens when a dog and stick encounter goes wrong.
Why are sticks such a problem?
Sticks have the penetrating properties of an arrow. Stick injuries can range from minor scratches to piercing injuries. Some of the most traumatic injuries Sydney veterinary clinics see are impalement.
Shards or splinters are also a big concern. Fragments of wood broken off by your dog’s chewing become lodged in the soft tissue around the throat or tongue. This is not only painful, they can cause infections. Sticks also can become lodge across the roof of the mouth/hard palate. This is very distressing for any dog.
But it’s not just about chewing and handling either.
Dogs chasing sticks at high speed have very little opportunity to divert their course or reduce their speed should the stick land poking out of the ground. A poking stick could impale your dog or poke out an eye or become lodged unhappily in their mouth as they try to retrieve it.
Sydney veterinary clinics see it all. From oesophagus damage through to penetrating injuries to the chest and abdomen, we’ve seen some worrying stuff. All caused by sticks that have landed the wrong way or dogs that have tried to handle them and failed.
The unseen and lethal side to sticks
Sticks are grubby. They’re covered in bacteria, yeast and fungi. These coatings love nothing more than to create nasty infections in your dog.
Dogs running with sticks at high speeds can cause horrific injuries to their mouth, tongues and gums. These types of injuries have the potential to become infected. Shads or splinters migrate under the skin and lodge their way in the surrounding soft tissue. They can even go unnoticed until large swellings appear under the dogs chin giving way to a tell-tale sign that something is wrong.
Surgery is needed to remove every fragment of stick. Sometimes multiply surgeries are required. Sometimes we even have to refer dogs onto specialist clinics such as SASH for CT scans. The splinters are hard to detect on radiographs and we need to rule out any fragments and only a CT scan is capable of doing a thorough job.
Endoscopy is another procedure used with stick and stick fragment extraction. Using a fibre optic camera is also a very useful tool however not all Sydney veterinary clinics own one. So it’s off to the specialist vet again for treatment. This allows a vet to view if any stick fragments have torn through the oesophagus or tracheal.
The fetch time alternatives recommended by Sydney veterinary clinics like us
Fetch doesn’t have to be off the playtime menu. It simply means making sure you have the right tools for the job. Even if you don’t end up on the wrong side of a stick adventure, throwing pieces of funny shaped wood at a public beach or park is dangerous to people as well. It’s far less dangerous to be hit by a rubber toy, foam Frisbee or a ball than a piece of rough tree.
And flying sticks can make people nervous. So using shared parks, beaches and off-leash areas with something less threatening than a hard bit of prickly wood is going to make for a better day out exercising the dog.
To reduce the risk of stick related injuries in your family pet and to avoid unnecessary confrontations with other space users, be prepared:
- Have a number of safe toys that your dog likes to play fetch with
- Keep a toy in the car or next to your dogs lead. This way you won’t leave home without it
- Inspect toys regularly for wear and tear
- Opt for pet versions of popular toys such as the Frisbee or ball as they are designed to withstand a dog’s bite and playtime antics
- Invest in good quality toys that are durable, such as the KONG branded pet toys rather than cheaper supermarket or discount store varieties
No such thing as a free stick
Playing with sticks can not only be potentially lethal for our canine friends, it is also very costly on the pocket when things go wrong. We encourage pet parents to not throw sticks and to teach your dog to choose the better, safer options from a young age.
Think of it this way: you wouldn’t shoot an arrow at your dog, so why throw a stick?
Sydney veterinary clinics see injuries that can be prevented from sticks all the time. And Fox Valley Animal Hospital is certainly no exception to the rule. It is important to get your pet checked over by a vet the same day you suspect a stick injury. So please, if you suspect your dog has splinters lodged in their mouth or throat or they suffer a stick related injury, please bring them in straight away.
On a lighter note we would love to see your pet enjoying a stick free alternative. Upload some pictures to our Facebook page and let’s encourage a safer, happier dog playtime together. Let’s shine a light on the toys that your Labrador loves to swim out to or that can withstand your Staffordshire Bull Terrier joy and more.
Having trouble finding safe and fun stick alternatives at your pet store or at Sydney veterinary clinics? Fox Valley Animal Hospital has you covered! Please call 02 9489 4805 for advice or drop in to check out our great range of durable, fun playtime dog toys. Our vet nurses are happy to help with suggestions that are right for your dog.