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PDSA Warn Not to Throw Sticks for Dogs

25 January 2016

UK - Playing fetch with sticks is one of those archetypal activities that people assume are perfect for dogs. However, vet charity PDSA is warning owners to be wary of sticks, after treating a number of horrific injuries resulting from sticks.

PDSA Vet Vicki Larkham-Jones said: “Playing fetch with sticks is something many people believe is a perfect game for dogs, however I have seen a number of severe injuries caused by this. On average, across our 51 hospitals we see stick-related injuries on at least a weekly basis, which includes injuries and wounds to the mouth and throat, choking and intestinal blockages.

“The most serious injuries tend to occur when a dog runs into a stick that has become lodged in the ground after being thrown, and the dog becomes impaled. Sticks can also pierce or get stuck in the mouth and throat, which might not always be immediately obvious but will cause significant damage. The trachea, oesophagus and big blood vessels like the jugular vein are all in this area and if these are damaged, the consequences can be devastating.

“I always advise owners never to throw sticks for dogs. There are so many fun and safe toys and games available, why take the risk?”

Case study: Murphy the collie cross 

Murphy was brought into Wolverhampton PDSA Pet Hospital after his owner noticed he was limping. On examination an object could be felt under the surface of the skin of his front right shoulder, and his owner remembered that he had been playing with a stick in the garden earlier in the day.

When the vets operated they were shocked to find a 22cm (8½ inch) stick lodged through his shoulder like a skewer. It seems that Murphy had been throwing the stick around when it somehow impaled his mouth and was forced through into his leg, narrowly missing his trachea and oesophagus.

PDSA Head Nurse Kay Brough said: “Murphy was incredibly lucky; if the stick had punctured his trachea he could have died within minutes. Thankfully we were able to fully remove the stick and Murphy went on to make a full recovery. But sadly not all dogs with injuries like this get such a happy ending.”

Ten top tips on how to pick the perfect toy for your pet

Not only are toys great fun for our pets, they also help prevent boredom, encourage them to move around more and strengthen the bond between us and them.

But what toy to choose? There are lots of varieties out there but it’s important to pick the right one for your pet. Here are PDSA’s top tips on how to choose the perfect toy for your four-legged friend.

  • This might sound obvious, but make sure the toy is made specifically for pets. Toys designed for children are less likely to stand up to the rough and tumble of pet playtime.

  • Pet toys should be non-toxic, and not have any parts that can be easily bitten off, chewed or swallowed.

  • Toys with any damage should be replaced as they may cause issues if your pet swallows any pieces.

  • Check that the toy is the right size for your pet – make sure it can’t be easily swallowed whole. Our vets regularly see dogs who have swallowed small objects and cats that have swallowed wool or tinsel after playing and pouncing on them. These items can become lodged in their stomachs and intestines and can be life-threatening. Often major surgery is needed to remove them. Vets advise that the toy is too small if it can be carried easily in your pet’s mouth.

  • Throwing toys for dogs to fetch can keep them fit – and they love it. There are lots of manufactured toys, such as Frisbees, that replace the traditional stick, which can cause terrible injuries, so are best to be avoided.

  • Some of the safest toys will have been designed for your dog to carry without being able to get the whole thing into his mouth. Rubber rings and big squashy balls are good but check they are puncture-proof from canine teeth.

  • Cats love toys that move quickly and unpredictably and this will encourage chasing and hunting-type behaviour. Fishing rod-type toys are ideal for this, as are toys that move by themselves or ones that the cat can bat around. Just remember to keep your hands out of harm’s way!

  • Always keep a close eye on your pets when playing with toys, unless you’re completely satisfied that the toy is durable enough that your pet can’t destroy it.

  • Taking your time when choosing a new toy for your pet pal ensures you are both more likely to get hours of safe fun and entertainment from it.

  • Variety is the spice of life – our pets may get bored looking at the same toys week-in week-out, so do change them around to keep things interesting.


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