It’s a very classic scene seeing a dog running happily through the dog park carry a giant stick that he rescued from the wilderness. Some dogs love to carry them while they go for a stroll with their family, some like to play keep away and tug with them, and some just want to destroy them into kindling. Whichever way your pup likes to play with sticks there are some risks involved.
The first risk is the most obvious as our parents yelled at us as children not to run with anything sharp or pointy and here is our fur baby running with a pointy stick. You can’t tell your pup to walk calmly and safely with the stick. Well, you can try, but somehow I don’t think they will understand the gravity of the situation! So if your pup just loves to carry something around while on walks bring them a toy. If it’s a toy that is only for going on walks with it will make it that much more special and exciting for them. There are a variety of products out there to simulate sticks that are safe. So if your pup can’t give up chewing on sticks, these might be a great alternative.
Chewing on sticks may be fun for your dog, but there is a risk of damaging their teeth and the soft tissues surrounding them. Long-term chewing on anything that is not specifically designed for chewing can wear down your dog’s teeth. As the teeth wear down the inner pulp cavity can become exposed which will cause pain. The pain your dog experiences is similar to us having a large cavity. Chewing on inappropriate objects such as sticks can also fracture teeth also leading to pain. Unfortunately, your dog can’t tell you their tooth hurts, so you have to watch for the subtle signs. Signs of pain can include not being as social, laying/hiding in places they never go in the house and being less interested in play time to name a few. Some signs of pain specifically in the mouth can include pawing/rubbing at their face, dropping food, chewing to one side of the mouth, drooling and odours coming from the mouth.
Splinters from the stick can break off as your dog chews and get caught in the gums, tongue and other soft tissues of the mouth. If the stick damages the gums surrounding a tooth, exposing the roots, the tooth may need to be extracted depending on the severity of the damage. There is also a choking hazard if the dog breaks off pieces of the sticks and swallows them. If they do swallow them without choking, the splinters then have the risk of doing damage the entire length of the digestive tract as they pass through. If the splinters perforate the digestive tract, bacteria can then seep into the abdomen where things can become serious very quickly.
Many times we have had dogs brought into the clinic as they started having a foul odour coming from their mouths. Upon examination, a stick was found lodged across the roof of the mouth. Many of these sticks had been there for many days and were starting to rot causing the foul odour. The stick was firmly lodged in between the teeth causing damage to the gums and roof of the mouth. Many of these dogs were still eating and acting fairly normal. Depending on the location of the stick, the dog may need to be sedated or anesthetized to ensure their safety before it is removed. Many blood vessels run throughout the mouth. If the stick has punctured one of these, there is a chance that the animal will bleed out if the stick is just pulled out without taking appropriate measures.
If your dog does have a stick or foreign object caught in the back of its throat or across the roof of their mouth never pull it out on your own unless you are 100% sure it can be removed safely (like in the case of a soft object). Take them straight to the nearest Veterinary Clinic or Emergency Veterinary Clinic to ensure the stick is removed properly and the risks are minimalized.
Written By: Nicki Payne, RAHT