Are you putting your dog at risk of a stick injury?

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Over the past couple of months I have seen a number of dog accidents – road trauma and general –  that has served as a stark reminder at how easily accidents can happen with dogs. The most recent I personally experienced also shows how dangerous a stick injury can be.

Sticks can easily cause damage to a dog’s mouth by getting stuck across the hard palate, or they can splinter leaving wood embedded into the soft tissue of the mouth or throat.

In the interview with Dr Robert Holmes in our Aussie Dog Products story in Season 1, we heard the most severe stick injury occurs when a dog tries to catch a stick mid-air, or as one end of the stick lands on the ground and it impales into the back of their throat causing severe damage to muscles, nerves, blood vessels etc

Since then I always made sure I took a ball or throw with us on a walk so that Darcy (who is stick and ball obsessed) could have something safer to chase.

However, a week ago I took an impromptu walk in the park with Darcy and Elli the Border Collie who was staying with us and had managed to successfully ignore Darcy’s constant shaking and dropping of a stick in front of my feet.  However,  just as we were leaving, I thought I’d make the little guy happy and give him just one throw.

What happened next was like a slow motion movie. Both Elli and Darcy took off after the stick and Elli ran at breakneck speed to reach it far quicker than anticipated.  Suddenly she gave a yelp and ran back over to me whimpering before becoming quiet and subdued.  As I learned, this (as well as gagging or pawing at their mouth) is a common sign of a stick injury (what did we do without Google?) and can not be left unchecked.

From a laceration in the back of the throat that won’t stop bleeding, damage to the airways that can restrict their breathing, or infection from splinters that remain lodged and more, an innocent looking stick injury can turn nasty very quickly.

Any dog with a suspected stick injury should be examined as soon as possible by a vet.  If it is left a day or two before having it checked, the soft tissue may have healed quickly and can hide splinters still lodged.    If this happens, it will likely abscess several weeks or months later requiring surgery, pain relief and antibiotics.  This is both a costly and painful experience for you and your dog!

Of course we went directly to my vet and I was shocked to see the size of the laceration in the back of Elli’s throat requiring pain and antibiotic injections.  Fortunately, when we went back the next morning it had improved dramatically so no further stitches were required, just a course of antibiotics to keep away infection.   Elli was back to normal but I was still kicking myself for what had happened.

In this instance Elli and I were lucky.  I was a few hundred dollars out of pocket (since Elli wasn’t covered with pet insurance) but, if it had been worse or left unattended, it could have ended up running into the thousands.     (Oh and in case you are wondering, Elli’s owner was very understanding as I had rung him immediately and kept him updated along the he knows I love her like she’s my own so was devastated by what had happened!) 

Once again I was reminded how quickly emergencies can arise with our pets…and why I had taken out pet insurance for Darcy. Here’s hoping I never have to use it for him, or make a visit to the vet with an accident again.

Needless to say I will never be throwing a stick for a dog again. No matter how much they beg and give me those big cute eyes!  Unless of course it is a safe alternative like the Aussie Dog ‘Get It’!

About the Author: Lara Shannon is co-Host of Pooches at Play and has completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour & Training with the National Dog Trainers Federation. Lara also runs her own dog walking, dog minding and dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area.

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