The danger of throwing sticks for dogs: Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

Want to know more about the dangers of throwing sticks for dogs? Listen to the podcast below.


Chasing sticks: fun or folly?

Chasing sticks is one of the most common forms of play for dogs out on walks, and perhaps surprisingly, it is one of the most dangerous.

  • A stick thrown for a dog is capable of causing horrific injuries to the dog. I have seen dogs die as a result of injuries inflicted by a stick that had been thrown by a well-intentioned owner.
  • The danger is particularly severe with long narrow sticks, but any stick longer than four inches can cause problems. The injury nearly always follows many sessions of harmless, enjoyable stick chasing, so owners are usually unaware of any danger.
  • Most sticks that are thrown land horizontally on the ground. The dog grabs the stick side-on, and rushes back to the owner, holding the stick proudly in his mouth. The owner removes the stick from the dog’s mouth, throws it again, and there is no problem.
  • However, occasionally after a stick has been thrown by an owner, it lands on the ground at an angle, with one end embedded in the soil, and the other end sticking up, like a javelin or spear.
  • This is when it gets dangerous. The dog rushes up to the stick enthusiastically, opening their mouth to seize the object of their desire. At this stage, the dog is travelling at speed, but the far end of the stick is firmly embedded in the ground. This is when the injury happens.
  • One end of the stick is held firmly in the ground as the dog moves forward with the other end in his mouth. As a result, the end of the stick causes a deep stab injury to the back of the dog’s throat.


The safest advice is that owners should NEVER throw sticks for their pets.

Instead, use a safe object, designed to be thrown for dogs. Examples include:

1.Chuckit balls, used with a 60cm ball launcher

2. Safestix – long, stick like objects made from a polymer that’s safe to chew

3. Frisbees designed to be thrown for dogs

4. The iFetch – a machine that repeatedly and automatically throws a ball for dogs /

(the dog brings it back, drops it in the funnel on device, and it throws it like an automatic tennis ball server for practicing)


Questions about pets from listeners

  • My 8 year old male cat has developed areas of thinning fur on his front legs. Do you have any idea what could be causing this ?
  • Our dog is licking his paws. We think it could be mites? We walk him every day and live in a semi rural area. He is a setter mix. Thanks. Carmel
  • Is there any issues with dogs chewing sticks or if wrestle with them with a stick? Out dogs like a nice stick to chew, but their preference is to chase tennis balls. One of them gets s manic / crazed look in her eyes waiting for the ball to be thrown. John. Dublin.
  • I gave a 5 year old pug cross, very active and bouncy until two days ago she started to limp. She’s is still in good form and jumping from the sofa but limping on and off. Should I wait to see if she improves or bring her to the vet immediately. She’s not in any obvious pain.
  • We brought our 12 year old Bichon Frise to the vet for some dental work. He had some hearing loss ( about 50% ). We asked the vet to check the dogs ears for wax while he was asleep. He did and found nothing wrong. When we got home afterwards we found that the dog was 100% deaf. We brought him back the following week but the vet could offer no explanation. He is still fully deaf and this is very frustrating. Any ideas. Thanks. Brian
  • I have a 12 year old golden Labrador .He is got very very vicious if you attempt to control him . I am very nervous of him . I just give him his own way but I am afraid with other people what he would do as he tends to reaches up towards people faces . He was never spayed also has arthritis on his back hips .Can you please give me some advice should I put him to sleep.
  • How do you stop your dog from picking up sticks? My dog is mad for them when we are out on walks. Peter
  • I own a cocker spaniel Cross and recently I noticed that in the middle of the night he had pood downstairs in a corner. This hasn’t happened since he was a pup and he was crate trained so he’s normally very good. On this occasion the poop was quite dark and tar like. We put him on chicken and rice but the same thing happened the next night. He was fine until a few hours ago when I woke up to see he had vomited. Any ideas?
  • I have a 14 year old staff/Pitt bull cross. He’s still moving around like he’s 7. He’s not really slowing down. Is this normal. I’m not complaining. Tony
  • My cats ears are bald she is in good health and is not scratching them, she is an outdoor cat

To find out the answers, listen to the podcast by clicking on the link below

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