Sticks are not considered food items. However, dogs are curious and many love chewing on sticks. At some point, a piece of the stick may be accidentally ingested. Other times, dogs may eat a stick on purpose.
Usually, this isn’t a huge problem. When a dog plays with a stick, only tiny pieces break off and get swallowed. Therefore, there is a minimum choking risk, and the foreign body should pass through the dog’s digestive system without an issue. However, swallowing a stick may cause more significant issues.
The most common problem associated with sticks is impaction. Simply put, the stick may get stuck in a dog’s stomach. Because it the dog can’t digest the stick, it will just sit around in the intestines. This situation is deadly and requires veterinary attention. Often, the vet will need to remove the stick via surgery.
Furthermore, there is no nutritional benefit of a stick. They are primarily indigestible, which means they don’t offer any nutritional benefits. Your dog’s digestive system cannot break down the stick.
Signs of Impaction
If your dog consumes a stick, there is a chance that the foreign body will pass through the digestive system. Therefore, there isn’t necessarily a reason to rush to the vet immediately. Depending on how much your dog eats, you may want to call your vet just in case. However, in many cases, you’ll be able to watch your dog for signs of impaction.
Any digestive upset is a common impaction sign. Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal tenderness all fall into this category. These signs may occur without impaction, though. Dogs aren’t typically used to eating sticks, and consuming too much may lead to stomach upset – even without impaction.
If an impaction occurs, the canine’s digestive system won’t be able to digest or pass anything through it. Therefore, the canine will stop eating. Everything will get backed up, so the dog will feel full until the impaction is fixed.
Similarly, your dog won’t be able to defecate. However, they may feel the urge to, leading to straining. If your dog isn’t straining or defecating, then it may be a sign of an impaction.
Since dogs won’t be able to get any new energy, lethargy may occur. The dog likely won’t feel very good. Therefore, if your dog isn’t acting right, it may be because they simply aren’t feeling good.
When dogs aren’t feeling good, their behavior often changes. Therefore, your canine may bite or growl when they typically aren’t aggressive. Dogs may be susceptible to being handled around their abdomen.
How Is Impaction Due to Sticks Diagnosed?
Impaction is often easy to diagnose if you go to the vet. This condition is one of the most common severe conditions in dogs. Therefore, vets see it a lot.
To diagnose it, the vet will often perform a physical examination. After the examination, the vet will usually need to do an X-ray. Several X-rays done with contrast are often necessary. These tests can help the vet see where the impaction is, how big it is, and confirm its existence.
In many cases, your vet may also recommend urine and blood tests, which help the vet check other bodily functions. Sometimes, the obstruction can affect other body functions, depending on the location and size of the impaction. Your dog may need other medications and treatments to ease potential complications.
Many different conditions can cause similar symptoms to impactions. Therefore, blood and urine tests may need to be done to rule out other conditions.
How Do Vets Treat Stick Ingestion?
Often, surgery is required to remove the obstruction. Sometimes, the piece of the stick may pass through the digestive tract on its own. However, this is rare, and most vets don’t wait to see if a significant impaction will pass.
When it comes to treating impactions, time is vital. You need to get your dog treatment immediately, and your vet will probably want to perform surgery quickly. Leaving the impaction in place can lead to an interruption of blood flow to critical tissues. This can lead to irreparable damage as the tissue becomes necrotic.
Impactions are very treatable. However, necrotic tissue isn’t. Therefore, if the condition advances, your dog may run into many different problems.
Your vet may sometimes think that the foreign body will pass in some cases. Because waiting is sometimes safer than surgery, your vet may recommend hospitalization to keep an eye on your dog. Follow-up X-rays are often recommended to check and ensure the stick is passing.
Sometimes, your dog may need extra treatment and medication if other organ systems are becoming compromised. Complications must be treated as they occur, and every dog is different.
Are Sticks Dangerous for Dogs?
Usually, impactions aren’t super dangerous if they are treated quickly. However, complications can occur. Therefore, it’s essential to get treatment right away. The faster you treat your dog, the lower the chance of impaction.
The chance of complications is higher if it is pressed against a vital organ, cutting off blood flow. If the obstruction stays longer, then complications are more likely. Bigger obstructions usually cause more complications, as they cut off more blood flow. Sicker, younger, and older dogs are more likely to have complications.
Of course, not all sticks lead to impactions, either. Many dogs play with sticks all the time without getting an impaction. Your dog would have to consume lots of small stick pieces or one very large stick piece for an impaction to occur. Their intestines would need to become blocked, basically.
Why Do Dogs Eat Sticks?
Often, dogs chew on sticks without intending to eat them. Sticks can be fun to chew on, especially for teething puppies. However, sticks aren’t strong enough to withstand most dogs’ teeth. Therefore, they break up and end up getting eaten by your dog. Most dogs don’t intend to consume the stick, but it just happens when they are chewing on it.
One way to prevent stick ingestion is to provide alternative chews for your canine. Look for safe antlers and bones from your local pet store. Chew toys are another great option, though you must ensure your dog doesn’t consume them, either.
Of course, a small minority of dogs may actually intend to eat a stick. often, these dogs enjoy the taste of the stick for one reason or another. These dogs often consume more of the stick than dogs who are just using it as a chew toy. Therefore, they are more at risk for impactions and other issues.
In all cases where your dog appears to be eating the stick (and not playing with it), we recommend removing it. Give your dog a toy or a chew that they can play with safely. Chewing or eating a stick indicates a need that your dog has – such as chewing. However, sticks are rarely a safe way for them to fulfill these needs. Remove the stick and provide alternatives.
Chewing is very normal for all dogs and shouldn’t be considered a serious problem. However, when your dog chew on a stick to the point of consuming it, that stick isn’t suitable to meet their chewing needs. Playing with a stick isn’t an issue, but your dog shouldn’t be consuming large amounts.
Chewing sticks is a serious problem for dogs. While sticks are a common dog toy, they arne’t usually very sturdy. Therefore, they can break apart while your dog chew or plays with them. Often, this leads to your dog consuming parts of the stick. Luckily, these stick pieces often pass through the digestive system safely.
However, these stick pieces can cause impaction, which is a serious condition that requries veterinary care. Often, the vet will ned to remove the stick from your dog’s intestines via surgery. Sometimes, the stick fragments may be sharp, causing tears in the digestive system, too.
There usually isn’t anything wrong with your dog playing with a stick. However, your dog shoudl be supervised when playing. If it becomes clear that piece of the stick ar ebreaking off, the stick should be removed. Be sure to provide alternative toys and chew for your dog to enjoy.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Wirestock
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