Dogs are man's companions for thousands of years now and sometime within the time period, playing fetch was invented. Fetch is a game played with a dog wherein an object, such as a stick or ball, is thrown a moderate distance away. It is the dog's objective to grab and retrieve the item but veterinarians warn that this game could pose risks for injuries.
Leading vets in the United Kingdom warn dog owners against the dangers of throwing sticks for their pets. More than 60,000 dogs are treated each year for what they called "horrific" injuries linked to the famous game of fetch.
"We don't want people to stop owners from playing and exercising with their dogs. We just want them to know they can protect their pets by using safe dog toys," Sean Wensley, president of the British Veterinary Association said.
He added that throwing sticks for dogs to fetch can be potentially life-threatening. The latest warning comes after a collie dog named Maya underwent emergency surgery when a 4-inch stick punctured her tongue and displaced her voice box. The owners of the dog weren't sure what happened until she stopped eating.
"We took her to the vet and they sedated her and then pulled out this long stick from her throat," Cath Pryde, Maya's owner, said.
"We had no idea that was the problem. There had been no blood or any other clues," she added.
In Maya's case, the stick went through the underside of her tongue. It caused pain and the dog was unable to eat or drink.
Sarah Stevenson, one of the nurses who attended to Maya at Bishopbriggs Veterinary Centre, said that she had seen an increasing number of dogs admitted due to fetch-related injuries.
"Stick injuries may not be initially obvious and may cause long-term problems," she added.
Dogs suffer two main types of injuries when they play fetch. According to Dr. Wensley, one type of injury happens when the stick is thrown and the dog was not able to stop in time causing serious injuries. The common injuries associated with this type of accident are penetrative wounds to the mouth, neck and chest which can cause serious damage to blood vessels and the spinal cord.
He added that even small fragments of the wood that penetrates the mouth or throat cause infections which can be fatal. Dogs enjoy playing fetch and Dr. Wensley said that he is not advising owners to stop throwing sticks, but instead, they should improve safety.
"What we absolutely don't want is to stop dogs enjoying exercise and play, as the benefits from those are really important for physical health and mental well-being, for both dogs and owners," he said. He recommends dog owners to use safe dog toys instead of sticks.
Photo: Sheila Sund | Flickr