Playing fetch with your dog is one of the simple pleasures of life. It’s relaxing, entertaining and satisfying in that you know your dog is loving it – and loving you for doing it.
Vets have issued an important reminder though about the very real risks of throwing sticks for your dog.
It’s a sad truth that too many canines are injured each year from running onto a stick that may have landed awkwardly in the ground. Representatives of the British Veterinary Association were all over the media this week talking about their experiences of stick related injuries, with a seemingly never-ending stream of callers and texters to radio stations recounting the awful experiences they and their dogs had had of these incidents.
Many of us do it and even if we’re conscious of this risk, as many will be, it’s pretty easy to mitigate it in your own head – you tell yourself that you’re throwing the stick far enough that it will be safely still on the ground by the time the dog gets there, or it’s too big to lodge in your dog’s mouth.
Of course we also know in the back of our heads that it only has to stick upright in a puddle once, or bounce awkwardly off a tree…
The consequences can be terrible, with cuts to the mouth, penetration wounds and even paralysis if the spine is damaged. Even if the initial damage is not fatal, infections from wood splinters which entered through an already bacteria-filled mouth can cause serious complications.
Not worth the risk?
It’s not a pretty picture and, given how much we love our dogs, maybe it’s not worth the risk when all’s said and done.
That said, not everyone necessarily agrees that stick throwing should stop. TV presenter Ben Fogle took issue with the advice via Twitter, which was reflected in this piece on the Guardian website. It’s one of those topics that will cause quite some debate.
Everyone will have a view, but there are safer ways to amuse your dog (and we have a selection here), which can be as simple as putting a tennis ball in your pocket.
It might just be that the pastime of throwing sticks for your dog has had its day, which seems a bit sad, but not as sad as the possible alternative when it’s perfectly feasible to make your daily play both safe and fun.