When I walk my dog I’m often astounded at the number of people I see allowing their dogs to carry sticks, play with sticks and fetch sticks that they have thrown. As a vet I see the potential disasters that can occur from this practice and wonder why people think that sticks are safe toys for dogs. I suppose that the main reason is that sticks are natural, abundant and can be left in the park at the end of the walk. Unfortunately sticks can cause a variety of injuries of varying severity, are relatively common in dogs and can in fact actually cause death.
The only way to correct the problem is to surgically excise the offending splinter. This is often easier said then done. Wood does not show up on x-ray at all and even with advanced imaging techniques such as MRI they can still be difficult to find.
If the veterinary surgeon can see the abscess itself then the whole area can be excised. This is often difficult because there are many important blood vessels and nerves in the face which can be damaged during surgery. If any abscess or splinter is left behind then the whole problem will re-flare at a later date.
Fatal injuries occur if the stick lacerates the carotid arteries in the neck or causes a ruptured oesophagus.
It is natural for dogs to want to carry things, catch and fetch. If your dog likes these games please buy him or her an appropriate sized ball, Frisbee or rope toy- these toys are much cheaper financially then the vet bills associated with treating stick injuries and will avoid the emotional risk of having an ill dog or even a fatal accident from a stick injury.
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