A Leeds veterinary practice is warning dog owners about the danger of throwing sticks after a family pet needed lifesaving surgery following an horrific accident.
Much-loved staffie Jess had to be rushed to Beechwood Vets in Crossgates after getting a foot-long stick lodged down her throat while out walking in fields with owner Emma Shaw near their home in Swarcliffe. The stick had gone into her chest, narrowly missing her heart and major arteries.
Emma had thrown the stick for Jess to chase but, as she jumped up to catch it, she landed on it after it became stuck in the ground and it went down her throat, becoming lodged in her oesophagus. However, there was no sign of the stick when Emma went to find out what was wrong with her dog, who had yelped in pain and started limping.
Emma was forced to carry Jess home and took her to Beechwood Vets with a suspected leg injury. It was only when vets carried out a clinical exam that they suspected a stick was stuck in her neck.
Beechwood Vets surgical director James Tate operated on Jess, but warned her owner she may not survive the operation because the veterinary team didn’t know what damage the stick had caused.
Dr Tate said: “Jess had a huge bulge sticking out of her neck and we had to act quickly as we were worried about an internal bleed because there are so many blood vessels around the neck. The stick could easily have punctured a major artery and we’ve seen cases where that happened and the patient didn’t survive. I had to give the owner a guarded prognosis as we didn’t know how much internal damage there was and unfortunately there was a reasonable chance of her dying on the operating table.
“Fortunately, the stick had not ruptured her oesophagus or penetrated through any soft tissue. It wasn’t until we opened up her neck that we saw just how long the stick was. We made an incision in the oesophagus and, with gentle manipulation, managed to get it out.”
It is not the first time a dog has been rushed to Beechwood Vets after swallowing a stick. Sadly, six months ago, another dog died due to the damage caused by a stick injury.
Dr Tate added: “It is incredible how the stick had not caused more damage to Jess because it had gone straight down her throat. We’re glad this case had a happy ending because we’ve seen dogs where there has not been a happy outcome. Lots of owners throw sticks for their dogs to chase and retrieve and are unaware just how dangerous this is. We never recommend throwing sticks because of the damage it can do to a dog, sometimes even fatally.”
Emma admits she will never again throw a stick for Jess or her other two dogs, staffie Steve and Jack Russell Oscar.
She said: “It was the worst 24 hours of my life as we didn’t know if Jess would survive. I can hardly remember what the vet said to me as I was crying in the car park and was sick with shock. James and his team were amazing and did everything they could to save her. She will never play with a stick again. Dogs have a natural instinct to play with sticks, but it can be so dangerous. My advice to all dog owners is never to throw sticks.’