UK Veterinarians Warn Against Throwing Sticks For Your Dog To Fetch

They say playing fetch with sticks can cause more serious injuries than many dog owners realize.

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Go fetch? Some UK vets say playing fetch with sticks can cause harm to your dog. Via Pixabay
Go fetch? Some UK vets say playing fetch with sticks can cause harm to your dog. Via Pixabay
Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig

Playing fetch with one’s dog is a favorite pastime with people around the globe.

However, the president of the British Veterinary Association says the innocent play actually can cause “horrific injuries” to pets if it involves a stick, BBC News Magazine reports.

He even goes as far to say throwing sticks could be “potentially life-threatening.”

“We don’t want people to stop owners from playing and exercising with their dogs,” Sean Wensley, president of the BVA, told the BBC. “We just want them to know they can protect their pets by using safe dog toys.”

Veterinarians are concerned that playing the game of fetch with sticks can cause painful injuries, including tongue splinters and the piercing of vital organs. And although there is no current data on the issue, vets say injuries are common.

Tongue splinters are one of the risks dogs face, say vets. Via Pixabay

Tongue splinters are one of the risks dogs face, say vets. Via Pixabay

“It’s a risky business throwing sticks,” vet Cameron Muir told the BBC, explaining the dogs are typically impaled or develop an abscess from the wood. “We often have to put dogs under anesthetic to remove splinters, and sometimes have them in for repeat surgeries.”

Muir, who owns a practice in Cheshire, England, said he annually sees 20 cases of stick injuries out of the 3,000 dogs he treats. One UK veterinary charity, People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, reports to the BBC it sees stick-related injuries across its 51 hospitals on a weekly basis.

Balls and squeaky toys are an alternative to sticks, experts say. Via Pixabay

Balls and squeaky toys are an alternative to sticks, experts say. Via Pixabay

The warning comes after a dog in Scotland had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a four-inch long stick that had punctured her tongue and displaced her voicebox.

Despite the warning, one UK broadcaster took to Twitter to debunk the notice.

“We’ve been warned not to throw sticks for our dogs to prevent injury?” Fogle, owner of two Labradors, wrote. “I’ve thrown sticks for 35 yrs (sic) without a problem. Have sticks changed?”

The BBC reports Labradors and Border Collies are the most likely to be treated for stick injuries and that vets suggest pet owners use balls and squeaky toys as an alternative.

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