Many dogs love to carry, chew and chase after sticks. However, did you know that their seemingly playful habit can end in tears? We’ve had a case of a stick injury this week in the clinic. Stick injuries in dogs can result in serious infections of the mouth and pharynx. Sticks can lacerate the delicate structures of the mouth and throat, and splinters can penetrate the neck and chest cavity.
Dogs with stick injuries often present with vague symptoms. They can be depressed and off their food. A really good clinical exam should include your vet opening the dogs mouth and examining inside (if possible!!).
Sticks commonly lodge on the roof of the mouth across the hard palate. These are usually easily removed.
Sticks that lacerate or penetrate soft tissues often cause much more serious infections and inflammation. Sometimes an abscess can even form on the lower jaw weeks or months after a stick injury. Surgery may be needed to lance and flush out these infected cavities.
In some cases, MRI or CT scanning may be needed to rule out a foreign body infection. This type of imaging can be very costly. Sometimes doing exploratory surgery under sedation or anaesthesia and placing a surgical drain can have an excellent outcome without needing to resort to expensive imaging. A good general surgeon would be able to do this in general practice.
If your dog loves sticks, try replacing them with a different toy on walks. We love the kong range and carry them in our shop. Also, ball launchers are great. If you love throwing things for your dog to fetch, then think about throwing a ball instead of a stick!