Warning to dog owners over life-threatening injuries caused by 'fun game'

A simple activity with your pet could result in a deadly situation.

A Sydney vet has warned dog owners of the "unknown danger" caused by a common and seemingly innocent activity.

Northside Emergency Veterinary Service (NEVS) has seen a spike in the number of life-threatening injuries caused by owners and their pets playing fetch with sticks.

While it might seem like the most normal thing in the world to do with your dog, the clinic shared the sad example of a border collie named Riley, who could have lost his life.

"Riley was probably one of the worst ones we've seen," Clinical Manager, Dr Heather Russell told Yahoo News Australia.

Two photos of a Border Collie at Northside Emergency Veterinary Service in Sydney after being seriously injured from catching a stick.
A Sydney clinic, Northside Emergency Veterinary Service, has warned dog owners of common injuries caused by dogs catching a stick in their mouth. Source: Supplied

The 'most common' type of injury

In the process of retrieving the stick, the pet copped a very "deep" wound that went all the way down the back of the throat, along his neck and into his chest, causing a collapsed lung and nerve damage. Riley spent five days at NEVS.

"The most common one we see is if the stick lands, and the dog sort of almost impales itself on the stick with its mouth open, we often get lacerations along the side of the tongue, and the stick can penetrate into those lacerations and they can actually penetrate the oesophagus," Dr Russell explained.

A photo of a Kelpie at NEVS which received a 10cm laceration to its mouth and an abscess from catching a stick.
Another dog, a kelpie, recently went to the vet for a stick-related injury causing a 10cm laceration to its mouth and an abscess. Source: Supplied

"It can even go further down into the chest cavity, and can cause life-threatening issues within the thorax itself.

"There have even been reports of dogs becoming paralysed after a stick has penetrated the spinal canal and crushed the spinal cord."

'External signs can be small'

The big problems are common with "high energy dogs" such as border collies, but Dr Russell says it can happen to any breed, and that it's "very important" to go to the vet to avoid long-term issues, even if the injury appears to be small.

"Once the sticks are removed, they can leave behind debris and splinters that can be challenging to remove and can cause issues a few days down the line, like abscesses forming," she said.

"If people think the stick is out and there's no harm done, it still definitely warrants an examination at the vet because quite often, there can be big holes underneath, but the external signs can be quite small."

What are the alternatives?

Dr Russell acknowledged the act of chasing a stick is "a bit of an unknown danger," and can seem like a "fun game in the park". However she warned others to seek alternative ways to play catch with their dog.

"They're better off throwing a toy or a frisbee, or something that's soft that the dog can catch in its mouth without damaging it," she said.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.