Vets have warned owners against throwing sticks for their pets to fetch by revealing more than 60,000 dogs are treated every year for often “terrible” injuries sustained as they try to retrieve them.
The warning came after a smooth-haired collie called Maya, owned by Scot Cath Pryde, had to have a 10cm stick surgically removed after it punctured her tongue and damaged her larynx.
Sarah Stevenson, of Bishopbriggs Veterinary Centre near Glasgow, who treated Maya, said she had seen a surge in dogs suffering stick injuries.
Sean Wensley, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said about one dog a month was treated for a such injury at each of the more than 5,000 practices in the UK.
Mr Wensley said dogs were often impaled or had picked up infections from splinters.
Mr Wensley, a senior vet for the PDSA, urged owners to use safe alternatives such as Frisbees, rubber balls and toys, saying: “Our message is that these injuries are severe and are preventable simply by using dog-safe toys as alternatives to sticks.”
Dogs suffer two main types of injuries from sticks, he said. “One is when a stick is thrown and lands in the ground like a javelin and a dog running at pace after runs on to it and impales itself.
“We see terrible penetrative wounds to the mouth, neck and chest, which can damage major blood vessels or in some cases the spinal cord, which can cause paralysis. These can be life-threatening injuries.”
The other type involves splinters from chewed sticks penetrating the mouth and throat, causing infections which can be chronic and even fatal.
Mr Wensley said the advice was not about stopping dog owners having fun with their pets, but improving safety.