Stick safety

Stick injuries to dogs can range from minor cuts and scrapes to infections from stick splinters and even fatal injuries. Stick injuries are all too common and preventable, so please never throw sticks for dogs. They can lead to horrendous, life-threatening injuries, requiring advanced investigation and surgery. Use safer rubber alternatives instead.

Why does my dog want to play with a stick?

If you forget or misplace your dog's favorite toy when you’re on a walk and they are used to playing fetch or carrying things in their mouth, they may start looking for a stick as a replacement.

Other reasons why dogs choose to play with a stick:

  • Dogs learn by watching other dogs, it could be down to a learned behaviour from another dog
  • The availability of a stick when looking for something to play with
  • A stick can be viewed as a neutral toy to play with another dog
  • There are a variety of shapes and sizes of sticks to choose from

According to anecdotal evidence, Border Collies and Labradors are the breeds most prone to suffer injuries since they like to retrieve and play fetch.

Potential risks

Even though throwing sticks for your dog can seem like a fun game, unfortunately, sticks are not safe for dogs. There are several trees that are toxic to dogs and sticks can also cause injuries ranging from tongue splinters to piercing vital organs.

Playing catch with a stick can result in the dog being impaled in the throat. Dogs can run onto a stick that is not settled on the ground, which can then become lodged at an angle. While some may only result in minor injuries, other dogs may experience life-threatening injuries, such as lacerations of critical neck tissues and bacterial infections. Academics from the Royal Veterinary College found dogs suffer as many injuries playing with sticks as they do on Britain’s roads.

Both dogs and owners can benefit from playing fetch, however, to prevent these potentially fatal wounds it is advisable to not throw sticks for your dog to catch.


For dogs, chewing can be a natural instinct that helps them relieve tension, boredom or anxiety. Therefore, ensuring your dog has an appropriate durable chew other than a stick is crucial, especially at a young age.

There are safer substitutes to a stick available, and if you and your dog enjoy playing fetch, you’re likely to already have a number of toys for your dog that can be thrown instead, such as rubber sticks and dog-friendly frisbees.

Some dog owners might consider switching to a different toy to avoid trips to the vet, and it is important to remember if you think your dog may have been injured by a stick, seek advice from a vet right away.