Is it really a hazard to throw sticks for your dog…?!

A topic that always brings mixed opinions – “Is it dangerous to throw sticks for dogs?”.

It is true that 1000’s of dogs all over the world catch and fetch sticks with no issues but, in the last few years, vets from all over the world have been warning pet owners of the very serious dangers that throwing sticks brings. Reports of dogs becoming impaled, abcessed or bleeding critically are becoming more and more common.


There are four major risks of stick throwing:

  1. Splintering – the most common.

As we are all well aware, a dog’s automatic instinct when given something to catch/hold is to bite down. A dog’s bite is incredibly strong (the strongest reported is 500 psi) which means a fragile stick doesn’t really stand a chance! When a stick is bitten, it tends to splinter which means your poor pooch now has a mouthful of splinters that can become embedded in their gums, tongue, cheeks or even the palate.

As the mouth has more nerve endings than almost any other part of the body, I’m sure you can imagine how painful this is! There is also the risk of infection from the splinters, leading to an abscess and ultimately blood poisoning. Abscesses are a huge concern because they cannot always be seen and do not always show up on x-rays and you may only notice them because they start to drain (ew!) and could leave your dog unable to eat or drink because their mouth is so sore.

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Image: barkpost

2. Wedging

If a stick is small enough, they can easily become wedged between teeth or across the roof of mouths.

This doesn’t sound too serious, but what you may not know is inside your dogs teeth on either side is the Greater Palatine Artery. If this is nicked/lacerated by a stick, your dog could be in grave danger through blood loss.

So if you notice your dog pawing/scratching at their mouths and it’s a stick related injury – get them to your local Vet ASAP for the safest way of removing it!

3. Pharyngeal impalement

This one is pretty nasty… At the back of your dog’s mouth, where the nose and mouth actually meet and the voice box and gullet open is the “Common Pharynx”. This soft tissue is the most common part of the mouth where dog’s manage to impale themselves. It usually happens because a stick is thrown for them to chase, and whilst running the dog opens their mouth to catch it and they run onto the stick.

The usual symptoms to look out for for this type of injury are an inability or difficulty to swallow or eat their food, lethargy and fever (caused by an infection). The repercussions of this could be paralysis, bleeding, and permanent damage to the gullet. Unfortunately, this has a grave prognosis. So please keep your pups safe!

This injury requires vet treatment and the repair and recovery can become a little complicated due to the delicacy of the animal’s skull, but specialists are now seeing surgical repair cases from this type of injury on average 2-3 times a week. So as you can see, this is becoming more and more common in our furry friends.

4. Thoracic impalement

You wouldn’t believe how common this is! To put it simply, the injury occurs almost the same way as described above but at the last minute the dog may realise they’re in danger and move their head out of the way. This means that they then end up stabbing themselves in the chest, as they are unable to stop themselves running into the stick due to momentum.

In most reported cases, it appears that the stick tends to be deflected to penetrate the ribs or even into the armpit. As painful and uncomfortable as this is – it doesn’t usually cause life threatening injuries but will still need vet treatment to prevent abscess and infection.

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Image: dailymail

So next time you’re out for a walk with your furry friend – please avoid throwing sticks for them and perhaps take a dog-safe toy with you e.g the legendary ball!

Has your pet, or perhaps someone you know, had any stick related injuries? Let us know!

And if you need any help finding a loving pet care for your pet, you make a request below. It’s free and it only takes 30 seconds – let’s see who we can find for you.

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