"Rosso" was a young, exuberant Fox-Red Labrador. True to his Breed he absolutely loved retrieving objects. Anything would do, unfortunately for him his favourite “prize” was a stick. Dutifully he returned every stick that his loving family members threw for him and he always brought them back.
This day was different though. He was out for a lovely walk in the woods and he was so happy and enjoying himself rushing through the undergrowth and scenting out all the wonderfully interesting woodland smells. One of the younger members of the family found and through a large stick for him, and instead of the usual wagging return there was a loud yowl and yelping from the bushes where the stick had landed. "Rosso" had tried to catch the large, sharp ended stick end on, and it had pierced deep into his throat. He was clearly in a lot of pain and bleeding. The family were understandably terribly upset and brought him in to the practice immediately as an emergency case.
He was far too painful to be examined conscious when I saw him at the surgery, and I advised that his mouth and throat be examined immediately as an emergency case under a safely monitored anaesthetic. I gave him some pain relief, and some antibiotic cover before he was admitted, as sticks are not clean objects, and I did not want potential infection to get a hold in this penetrative wound.
"Rosso" was admitted to the Hospital for this examination, looking sorry for himself and he was in pain and drooling excessively blood-tinged saliva. His mouth and throat were examined under an anaesthetic and two areas of trauma to the mouth were noted on his examination, lacerations underneath his tongue and around the back of his throat. These areas were carefully examined for any pieces of stick and thoroughly flushed clean with a saline solution and left open to heal by second intention, as stick injuries can notoriously cause a recurrence of infection, due to small pieces of the offending stick causing a foreign body reaction and further infection in the future.
"Rosso" was still extremely sorry for himself after her recovered from his anaesthetic, but he did seem less painful and he was allowed home later that day on further pain relief and anti-inflammatory treatments and a course of appropriate antibiotics. He was given a soften moist tinned diet for a couple of weeks to keep him more comfortable when he was eating and given a rest from his usual free running and kept on a lead until his next check-up a week later.
Thankfully "Rosso" did make a full recovery, but we did keep a careful eye on him with further check-ups to make sure that there was no evidence of swelling around his mouth , nose, or his eye above the sight of the recent penetrative stick injury.
Sadly, we see a lot of injuries to dogs throughout the year due to stick penetrative injuries. Throwing sticks of any shape or size certainly poses a risk to dogs of oral and facial injuries and is not a good idea. Instead you can use a safe rubber toy “stick” or safe soft ball as an alternative, to ensure that your lovely companion is kept safe from injury while doing what he loves to do and what he does best .. retrieving! If he picks up a stick to play with discourage him and offer him an alternative safe toy and give him a treat as a reward for retrieving this, but do discourage playing with , chasing, or retrieving sticks given the potential risks here.
If you are worried about your dog after a known or suspected stick injury, then please arrange for an appointment at your Vet for an examination initially, and then they will advise on further investigations from there.