Playing fetch with one’s dog is a favorite pastime with people around the globe.
However, the president of the British Veterinary Association says the innocent play actually can cause “horrific injuries” to pets if it involves a stick, BBC News Magazine reports.
He even goes as far to say throwing sticks could be “potentially life-threatening.”
“We don’t want people to stop owners from playing and exercising with their dogs,” Sean Wensley, president of the BVA, told the BBC. “We just want them to know they can protect their pets by using safe dog toys.”
Veterinarians are concerned that playing the game of fetch with sticks can cause painful injuries, including tongue splinters and the piercing of vital organs. And although there is no current data on the issue, vets say injuries are common.
“It’s a risky business throwing sticks,” vet Cameron Muir told the BBC, explaining the dogs are typically impaled or develop an abscess from the wood. “We often have to put dogs under anesthetic to remove splinters, and sometimes have them in for repeat surgeries.”
Muir, who owns a practice in Cheshire, England, said he annually sees 20 cases of stick injuries out of the 3,000 dogs he treats. One UK veterinary charity, People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, reports to the BBC it sees stick-related injuries across its 51 hospitals on a weekly basis.
The warning comes after a dog in Scotland had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a four-inch long stick that had punctured her tongue and displaced her voicebox.
Despite the warning, one UK broadcaster took to Twitter to debunk the notice.
“We’ve been warned not to throw sticks for our dogs to prevent injury?” Fogle, owner of two Labradors, wrote. “I’ve thrown sticks for 35 yrs (sic) without a problem. Have sticks changed?”
We've been warned not to throw sticks for our dogs to prevent injury? I've thrown sticks for 35 yrs without a problem. Have sticks changed?
— Ben Fogle (@Benfogle) January 20, 2016