BluePearl warns dog owners not to use sticks when playing fetch


Sticks may be an easy option when playing fetch outdoors, but they pose potential dangers

Chalabala /

Chalabala /

With warmer weather becoming more consistent every day, outdoor time including trips to the park, hiking adventures, and more plus games of fetch are more common among dog owners and their pets. Thus, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital is raising awareness of the dangers of playing fetch, specifically with sticks.

Sticks can cause minor injuries, (eg, splinters and scratches in a dog’s mouth). They also have the potential to cause major injuries like bacterial infections and they may get stuck in a pet's throat or stomach, causing internal tears.

The British Veterinary Association stated, “Sticks can get impaled into a dog’s throat, and whilst this may just cause minor wounds, some dogs will suffer life-threatening injuries such as lacerations of the vital structures within the neck as well as multi-resistant bacterial infections.”2

Dogs with stick injuries can show signs either immediately or weeks to months following the initial injury. A dog suffering from stick ingestion or injury may present with blood-tinged saliva, pain, vomiting, reluctance to eat or drink, lethargy, swelling of the face and neck, and bloody stool.1

“Most dog owners see no harm in giving their pets sticks during games of fetch or along hikes or walks. It is important for these owners to know that sticks can scrape a dog’s throat, and while this may just cause minor wounds, some dogs can suffer life-threatening injuries like a laceration to the vital structures of the neck or stomach, as well as a bacterial infection,” stated Erin McGowan, VMD, DACVECC, critical care specialist at BluePearl in the release.1

Wall-E, the Rottweiler puppy who ingested the 10-inch stick. (Image courtesy of BluePearl).

Wall-E, the Rottweiler puppy who ingested the 10-inch stick. (Image courtesy of BluePearl).

A BluePearl faculty in Waltham, MA, recently saw an emergency case where faculty found a stick in the stomach of 15-month-old Rottweiler, Wall-E. On an X-Ray, BluePearl radiologist, Leslie Schwarz, DVM, MS, DACVR, noticed a long, 10-inch cylindrical object with aggravated tissue outside his stomach. To further determine the cause of Wall-E’s discomfort, the team opted for surgical exploration.

The operation revealed that a large stick with a 35-degree bend had perforated a hole through his stomach. During the surgery, the veterinarians also discovered that Wall-E was septic. Thankfully, they treated the pet quickly, removed the stick, and repaired the hole in his stomach.1

BluePearl recommends dog owners use safer alternatives such as rubber sticks, balls, and frisbees when engaging in fetch.


  1. Playing fetch? Think twice before throwing that stick for Fido. News release. BluePearl. May 24, 2022. Accessed June 2, 2022.
  2. McCready D. The perils of throwing sticks for your dog. British Veterinary Association. January 23, 2019. Accessed June 2, 2022.
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