Stick injuries in dogs

Dog with stick in mountains. Happy labrador retriever running in lake. Alps, Italy

Stick injuries in dogs

Throughout the year we see a number of dogs referred to us with penetrating injuries sustained whilst chasing sticks.

Many owners don’t realise how easily stick injuries can cause damage to a dog’s mouth or body. They can get stuck across the hard palate at the top of the mouth, or splinters can embed in the soft tissue of their mouth and throat. If these injuries are subtle they may go unnoticed, allowing the splinter to migrate and/or lead to an abscess.

Sticks can also easily become ingested. In extreme cases, for dogs running at speed, it isn’t uncommon for them to be impaled by sticks when playing fetch. These are the most serious type of injuries caused by sticks and may require life-saving surgery. But, even with small splinters, a penetrating injury will still require veterinary care, sometimes necessitating extensive surgical exploration and drainage.

Signs that your dog has been injured by a stick

Dogs that sustain stick injuries might demonstrate the following:

  • give a yelp or start whimpering, before becoming quiet and subdued
  • gag, salivate, chew constantly or start pawing at their mouth
  • if a splinter is embedded elsewhere on their body, they may lick the area excessively or develop a limp

If you suspect your dog has sustained a stick injury they should be examined as soon as possible by your vet.

Even small splinters left in the body can cause significant harm. The entry point may have healed but the splinter will migrate. The longer the splinter is left in the body, the more damaging the splinter and the body’s response to the splinter can become. The associated swelling and inflammation can be very debilitating. If it occurs in the throat area, it can be very dangerous.

How NDSR can help

If you suspect your dog may have suffered a stick injury, seeking veterinary attention as soon as possible can be life-saving.
In many cases imaging and surgery are required to locate and remove the splinter and treat any infection. This may involve X-rays or CT and an endoscopy to help retrieve sticks and assess for further damage.
Our multi-disciplinary team have the skills and experience to help. Whether that’s an extensive injury caused by dogs that have impaled themselves on a stick, those that have merely ingested a piece of wood or patients that may have a splinter causing significant discomfort.

Avoiding stick injuries

One way of avoiding stick injuries is to use safe alternatives when playing fetch. It is also good to discourage your dog from chewing sticks when can. This is challenging when you aren’t around, but obedience training and providing many other safe alternatives is a good place to start.

Arranging a referral for your pet

If you would like to refer your pet to see one of our Specialists please visit our Arranging a Referral page.