Many of us think of sticks as natural dog toys that are fun to play with when we are out on a walk, but are they dangerous for our dogs? Turns out depending on what your dog likes to do with sticks, they might not be as safe for our pups as we thought!
Why do dogs like sticks?
Many dogs seem to be magnetically drawn to sticks, playing with them, fetching them, even carrying them around.
“Some dogs love sticks while others are uninterested. Just like with any type of toy, our dogs have personal preferences,” says Tory Waxman, DVM, a small-animal veterinarian and co-founder of human-grade dog food brand Sundays.
Dogs that are drawn to sticks may find the taste, smell, or texture stimulating.
Kirk Herrmann, DVM in the Dentistry and Oral Surgery department of NorthStar VETS Veterinary Emergency, Trauma, and Specialty Center notes that “young dogs may chew more commonly due to their playful nature and potentially to soothe their mouths during the eruption of their dentition. Less commonly, nutritional deficiencies or systemic health concerns can play a role” in dogs being attracted to chewing or eating sticks
Can chewing sticks be dangerous for dogs?
Dogs might be having fun playing with sticks but depending on how your dog engages with sticks there may be some serious health dangers.
“Sticks can definitely be dangerous and you should always supervise your pup when he is playing with sticks. Pups can injure their mouths on the sticks and they can cause an upset stomach if ingested. Additionally, some sticks may have mold or other substances on them that might upset your dog’s stomach if ingested” advises Dr. Waxman.
Oral health issues such as injuries to teeth, lips, tongue and gums are a primary concern for dogs who chew sticks. Dr. Herrmann says that in these dogs “tooth fractures, lacerations, and complications secondary to oral and gastrointestinal foreign bodies can be seen. Some of these conditions can lead to life-threatening consequences or severe oral health concerns.”
Dr. Herrmann encourages dog guardians to make sure that their dogs have appropriate canine-safe chew toys available and advises that “dogs should not be allowed to chew on items that are not soft enough to be dented by the human fingernail or that can be accidentally ingested.”
Dogs are chewing on sticks they can become lodged in the roof of a dog’s mouth – sometimes requiring sedation to be removed. For dogs who eat the sticks that they chew, those sticks can “cause irritation when passing through the gastrointestinal tract, which could lead to vomiting, diarrhea and reluctance to eat,” says Dr. Waxman. After chewing sticks dogs may also have a difficulty passing those bits of wood which can lead to irritation or injury to the dog’s colon or rectum.
If your dog has been chewing on sticks, keep an eye on your dog to monitor for any kind of oral injuries or gastrointestinal upsets. Symptoms to watch for include vomiting, bloody bowel movements, diarrhea or straining to defecate. Watch for lethargy and reluctance to eat. If your dog displays any of these symptoms or if you notice any tooth injuries or bleeding from the mouth, your dog should be seen by your veterinarian.
When to stop your dog from chewing on a stick:
“If your dog has a history of injuring himself from chewing sticks, then it’s best to not let himm chew or eat sticks,” says Dr. Waxman.
If you know that your dog is prone to chewing on sticks,always supervise your dog when outside. To discourage your dog from taking sticks and running off, play a game of “trade” where instead of scolding or just taking the sticks away from your dog you “trade” them a stick for a treat (or an appropriate toy). This will build value for your dog in making the trade, and prevent your dog trying to keep the stick from you and trying to eat it quickly.