All dog lovers want to keep their pets safe and happy. Playtime is an important part of this. Many pet owners, however, unknowingly put their pets at risk while playing with the seemingly innocuous stick.
Dogs have played with sticks for as long as dogs and man have played together. It seems like a natural part of owning a dog. However, throwing a stick for your pup is more dangerous than many realize.
Young Ripley (pictured above) was on a walk with her owner and innocently picked up a stick and ran with it. Before her owner could stop her, Ripley tripped and the stick impaled Riply, ripping through her soft palate and exiting her body through her throat. Ripley had to be rushed to emergency surgery and it was not known if she would survive. Thankfully, Ripley came through the operation and is now recovering at home.
Stick chewing poses a splintering hazard
Ripley’s story is not unique. Every year veterinarians treat all manner of stick related injuried in dogs. From impaling type injuries like Ripley’s to the migration of splintered peices of stick that the owner may not even notice until much later. Dr. Rose Bate describes the migration of splintered bits of stick into the nasal cavity, the eye, the brain and the spine causing major damage in their wake.
The most common cause of stick injury comes when the owner is throwing the stick for the dog, or the dog is running for or with the stick in its mouth for any reason. However, even passive stick play can be dangerous as wood can splinter and migrate causing serious damage.
While the risk of injury from sticks is real, there are thankfully plenty of safe alternatives on the market to stick play. The Tennis Ball is perhaps the perfect dog toy (for most dogs, they can pose choking risk to large breeds) Tennis balls are cheap, fit nicely in your pocket, they float and most dogs love them. Kongs are another safe, durable toy for outdoor play. They come in many varieties including Kong on a rope and floating Kongs. For dogs who prefer that “stick” type feel a bumper or training dummy might be a suitable alternative. These are made from plastic or canvas and used to train hunting retrievers. They are durable, vaguely stick shaped, and float.
There is some level of risk in just about everything, you should know your dog and thoroughly research any toy before using.
For more info: Check out Stick to Toys online for more stories of stick related injuries and alternatives to playing with sticks.