There’s not much a dog loves more than chasing sticks at the park or the beach. Sprinting after the spinning stick, diving on it and carrying the prize back to the owner. Only to have the stick sent dizzingly high again into the air and across the ground. And then, after the dog has tired of chasing the stick, sitting still and chewing the ends until all that is left is a pile of splinters….. This is a dog’s life!
The Dangers of Dogs Chasing Sticks
Unfortunately sticks can pose more of a danger than many realize. The following is the story of Rokky the cattle dog. Rokky was brought into our clinic with the owner distraught that he was “choking on a stick”. Rokky was not choking by the time he got to the clinic. However by examining the back of his throat we could see bruising and bleeding and he was obviously not well. A full examination was performed. Nothing was found in Rokky’s mouth. But a long hard lump was found along the chest wall under the skin. Guess what it was? The end of the stick! How on earth had it got there?
How Do Sticks Cause These Injuries?
With dogs giving their absolute all to chase sticks, they often dive on them, trying to catch them in their mouth at all costs. Occasionally the stick is caught end on, like a skewer. The momentum of the dog onto the stick drives the stick into the back of the dog’s mouth. Often causing injuries similar to Rokky’s.
This particular stick (35cm long and as thick as a broom handle) had gone down into Rokky’s oesophagus. It then exited through the side and continued down underneath his front leg. If it was any longer it would have stuck out the side of Rokky’s chest. Thank goodness the stick did not enter Rokky’s chest cavity but it was extremely close!
Emergency surgery was performed to remove the stick, ensuring no dangerous haemorrhage and no damage to the chest cavity had occurred. After surgery we referred our friend to the Animal Emergency Centre and Veterinary Referral Hospital for further care. The next day an endoscope confirmed a suspected oesophageal tear and specialist surgery was performed to repair it. Thankfully our beautiful fur friend Rokky made a full recovery. Luckily there was no nerve damage to the front leg and no entry into the chest cavity. Rokky survives to chase another stick.
What Can My Dog Chase Other Than a Stick?
There are many safer alternatives for dogs to chase than a garden stick. The Kong company make some wonderful dog toys which are safe to chase and chew. The Original Kong is a hard rubber cone that bounces unpredictably when thrown. Dogs just love to chasing them. The Kong Safestix is a rubber stick alternative that will not end up inside your dog.
We love owners taking their pets for walks and entertaining them with chasing games. Just remember to avoid an expensive and intensive surgery, consider these alternatives before throwing a stick for your dog.