Whoopie, a five year old female Golden Labrador who had a sore mouth

Whoopie just loves going for walks, and she has always adored chasing sticks. She has her own routine – she finds a stick herself, brings it to Mandy’s feet, and then barks until Mandy throws it. Whoopie then chases after the stick, picks it up in her mouth, and rushes back to Mandy, dropping it back down at her feet. And so the routine is repeated, time after time. Until the accident, stickchasing had been one of Whoopie’s main pleasures in life, and from a health point of view, it was an excellent way of getting plenty of vigorous exercise too.

Unfortunately, stick-chasing can be a very hazardous activity, as Mandy and Whoopie discovered recently. At first, the pleasant summer evening had proceeded normally. Whoopie had chosen a narrow branch, around twelve inches long, and Mandy had been throwing it repeatedly for ten minutes. Whoopie was utterly focused on chasing the stick, sprinting after it at full tilt, seizing it between her jaws, and pelting back to Mandy as fast as she could.

Then it happened. When Mandy threw the stick for the last time, it stuck into the ground, like a javelin. As Whoopie rushed up to seize it, she had her mouth open, ready to grab the stick. Up until that time, the stick had landed loose on the ground, so Whoopie had been able to grab it on the move. This time, one end of the stick was embedded firmly in the ground and the other end was pointing up towards Whoopie. As her mouth closed around one end of the stick, the other end remained stuck in the ground. Whoopie kept moving, and the stick remained stationary.

You can imagine the consequences – the free end of the stick impaled itself inside Whoopie’s mouth. Whoopie yelped, dropped the stick altogether, and trotted back to Mandy, looking for sympathy. She whined, and a small amount of blood dripped out of her mouth, Mandy knew that she had been injured, and she phoned the emergency vet at once on her mobile phone. Surprisingly, even as she was talking, Whoopie seemed to have made a full recovery. The blood had stopped, Whoopie had already found another stick, and she had thrown it at Mandy’s feet, asking for it to be thrown.

Obviously, there was no more stick throwing that night. Mandy took Whoopie home straight away, but because she seemed so well in herself, with no sign of any more bleeding, there was no need to rush to the emergency vet after all. Whoopie ate her supper as normal, and did not seem in anyway distressed by the episode. Mandy presumed that she had grazed the side of her mouth on the stick, and she had been lucky to get away with such a minor injury.

Whoopie was still as bright and cheerful as ever the next day, but Mandy did notice that she yelped when she was eating her food. When Mandy tried to open her mouth to see what was wrong, Whoopie refused to let her. Mandy decided that to be safe, she should bring Whoopie down to see me. It is much easier for vets than owners to examine animals. Pets know their owners very well, and are very good at bluffing. If they could talk, the conversation would be something like “ There is no way that I am going to let you look in my mouth. Seriously, I am just not going to let you”. At this stage, most owners have conceded that their pet will not let them look into their mouths, and the situation is over. The pet has won.

Pets are not nearly so confident when they are approached by a vet. The vet seems very confident, in comparison with the owner’s reticence. The pet is temporarily overwhelmed by the situation and they might say something like this: “You want to look in my mouth? Well, I am not sure about that, but I am not sure if I am brave enough to stop you” By the time they have gathered their confidence to resist, the quick examination is usually over.

Whoopie allowed me to carefully scrutinize the back of her mouth, and I could see a ragged-edged puncture wound on the right hand side, at the back of her cheek. If the stick injury had been just an inch in the other direction, it would have damaged the main blood vessel to her head, and she could have bled to death. As it was, she simply had a wound at the back of her cheek. I gave her a course of antibiotics, and some pain relief. She made a full recovery, and within two weeks, she was back on her usual walks. There is a difference nowadays, though. She no longer chases sticks – Mandy has bought a tennis ball and a Frisbee. Much safer, and just as much fun!


  • ¸ It can be very dangerous to throw sticks for dogs
  • Use safer alternatives, such as balls or Frisbees, available from petshops
  • Keep your vet’s phone number on your mobile phone, in case of an emergency

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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