Who “wood” have thought that playing with a simple tree branch or stick could result in such life threatening injuries?

With such a vast selection of toys available today for our canine companions it is a wonder why the simple tree branch / stick is still so widely used as an interactive “toy” for dogs to chase , catch and retrieve. Often so freely available after a windy winters day the selection of the most suitable stick can be so tempting, often dogs will help themselves with an overzealous approach attempting to carry a tree branch much larger than their own body length or owners simply pick up a small stick that would be much easier to throw, fly through the air further and with the added advantage to float in water too!

But do you ever stop and think of the implications of throwing a stick? And the serious life threatening injuries that can result?

Dogs are natural athletes often with a desire to do everything with such speed and with an abundance of enthusiasm during play. Mid-air acrobatics during stick catching is often considered part of the “fun” but severe trauma can result ; I have even nursed a dog that have caught the stick and then ran into a tree resulting in a cervical fracture in the neck!

The hidden “minor” injuries that occur through playing with sticks can often go unnoticed for a period of days, often lacerations occur under the tongue, in the laryngeal area, or stick fragments become lodged in the roof of the mouth which cannot be seen. Often symptoms of excessive salivation and reduction of appetite might be the only indication of oral damage.

In the throes of the game, dogs have unfortunately become impaled upon branches and sticks, with severe injuries to the thoracic and/ or abdominal cavity resulting in life threatening situations.

The one that I will always remember was of a dog that had run after a tree branch (of considerable length) and ran straight into the branch with her mouth wide open! The branch entered her mouth, travelled down the side of her trachea, caused a tear in her oesophagus, and then entered her chest. The resulting damage was a collapsed lung and life threatening injuries to her soft tissues and blood loss… She underwent hours of surgery to save her life, intensive care and intravenous feeding as her upper gastrointestinal required time to heal before allowing her to eat any oral food. After weeks of veterinary care she made a full recovery …. The cost implications of such complicated veterinary treatment are considerable, resulting in the tree branch literally being worth its weight in gold!

So, when the temptation arises to pick up a stick, look down into you hand and realise that you are holding a very dangerous weapon and one wrong throw can mean playing Russian roulette with you best friend.