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Vets Issue Warning on Stick Throwing

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Registered Veterinary Nurses and Veterinary Surgeons speak out about the injuries they have seen from stick injuries.

On a recent poll 97% of Veterinary professionals asked had encountered stick injuries in practice. The variety and severity of injuries caused were vast, with many sharing their experiences of 'near misses' where dogs have survived an injury caused mere centimeters away from life threating injury.

One member stated:

a whippet, ran full pelt into a shrub. Came into us with a puncture wound around his “collar bone”. We probed it and found it just kept going, so we packed it and sent him to the vet school. Turned out it had punctured his lung, JUST missed his heart, and he spent 3 days in ICU, had major surgery and was restricted exercise for a year.

Photo by Georgia Jane highlighting the small puncture wound described in the case of the Whippet. Thankfully this lucky dog lived to tell the tale! Although this particular dog didn't chase this stick it is a stark reminder of how dangerous stick injuries can be.

When a fun game nearly ends in tragedy

Dogs love to chase and stick throwing can seem an easy game, but it can end in a visit to your local practice if it goes wrong.

One member said:

One went 35cm into a dogs neck via mouth, client pulled stick out at scene, lots of bleeding, sent to referral, apparently narrowly missed major vessels and had to have neck surgery after CT showed a massive pocket they had to clean and close. Others [stick injury cases] just sticks stuck across roof of mouth but that does cause a lot of pain and distress, usually needing sedation to pull out.

This case is a great example of how dangerous they can be. What should you do if your dog has impaled itself on a stick?

  1. Remain calm

  2. Get your dog under control and still to avoid further injury

  3. Call your veterinary practice and advise you are coming down. Do this no matter how small the puncture wound seems

  4. Do not pull the stick if it remains in situ

  5. Describe to your practice the site and nature of the injury. They will talk you through first aid to provide while you transport to the practice

Soft Tissue injuries to the oral cavity

Sticks wedged on the roof of the mouth. These are extremely painful!

Injury causing oesophageal tear

Safe alternatives

Dogs love to chase and sticks can seem like a great game while out on walks but given the high instance of injury seen by veterinary practices vets are offering a word of caution: choose a safer alternative. You can change your games from throwing to scent and retrieval work, also using safer alternatives like dog dummies, balls (of appropriate size!) and products such as Kong Safestix (see below) can help reduce chance of issues.

A word of caution with throwing game!

We know that dogs love frisbees, balls and chasing toys but did you know that high impact, repetitive and jarring exercises can have a negative impact on joint health, especially in skeletally immature dogs or dogs that are predisposed to joint issues or malformations of the limbs.

For this reason we would try and avoid these kind of activities and swap them for more sustainable and suitable alternatives.

Remember that arthritic dogs will still chase balls even if it hurts them because their happy endorphins override the discomfort, they may suffer later as a consequence of this.


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