You’ve probably noticed that your dog loves sticks. As soon as you pick one up, he’s alert and ready to run. You’ve seen your dog lay outside chewing on sticks for hours, not caring about anything else in the world, but have you ever wondered why does my dog eat sticks?
Dogs love to chew on sticks because they are easy to chew, and they resemble bones. Dogs chew to relieve stress, anxiety, and boredom. Some dogs are more known for chewing than others, but nearly any dog will jump at a chance to gnaw on a nice, dry tree branch. Their earthy scent and taste also appeal to canines, but veterinarians warn that chewing sticks may not be very good for man’s best friend.
Some dogs also have a condition called Pica. This is a condition that drives animals to eat nonfood items. It can affect dogs as well as humans and other living creatures. Pic is a compulsive behavior that is considered destructive and can lead to serious health issues. Lack of exercise and poor socialization can be triggers for Pica. If you notice your dogs frequently eating things It isn’t supposed to combines with changes in digestion or stool, you should consult with your veterinarian about Pica.
Dogs will chew on sticks until they break apart in small pieces. They gnaw at the ends, and the sticks can splinter apart. If your dogs get a mouth full of small sticks or splintered wood and try to ingest the wood, there can be health problems for your dog.
If your dog has eaten a lot of sticks there is a risk of gut impaction which is when sticks get all knotted up inside the intestines and create a blockage. Blockages stop food from passing and cause vomiting and dehydration. The sticks caught in the intestines can become stagnant and release bacteria into your dog’s bloodstream which can cause death. Gut impactions can be life-threatening if they are severe and not removed. Your veterinarian will need to do an x-ray to determine if surgery to remove the obstruction is necessary.
If dogs eat sticks frequently their stool will become hard and difficult to pass. This can cause constipation and be dangerous if not treated. Constipation may cause your dog pain and eventually lead to vomiting and toxins in the bloodstream. Constipation in dogs can usually be relieved with enemas or laxatives, but occasionally a veterinarian intervention is necessary.
Another risk is that the sticks can tear or stab at the stomach wall or intestines. When a tear or hole in the intestines occurs, the dog’s gut contents will leak into their body and can poison them. Emergency surgery to repair the tear is the only treatment option, and even this may not always work.
Some wood is especially dangerous for dogs to eat including the limbs of fruit trees like apple, lemon, or pear trees which have toxins that can cause your dog to become nausea or have stomach cramps. These types of sticks are very aromatic to dogs, and you should take care to pick up the sticks in your yard so your dogs cannot get to them. Other types of branches that are poisonous to dogs include azaleas, black walnut, red oak, red maple, yew, black cherry, black locust.
A piece of wood can quickly get stuck in your dogs mouth and lock it open. Sticks can also get stuck to the roof of their mouth or even in their throat. If a piece of the stick is stuck in your dog’s throat, the situation can become life-threatening if the dog is unable to breathe.
Luckily, most dogs will be okay if they eat sticks as long as they don’t eat them frequently. If your dog only chews sticks and doesn’t eat them, you will probably not have much to worry about. If your dog has eaten a lot of sticks, you need to watch for the warning signs of the complications of eating sticks listed above. Some of the warning signs to watch for over 72 hours after your dog eats sticks include:
If your dog begins showing any of these signs, call your veterinarian or emergency vet immediately for further guidance.
You may not want to deny your dog a game of catch with a stick or a few minutes of chew time on the branch of a tree. If you are going to let your dog chew sticks, you need first to make sure that none of the sticks are the poisonous kinds listed above. You should also make sure that your dog only has large pieces that don’t fit inside his mouth. Monitor your dog while chewing and if they begin to swallow pieces, take the stick away from them.
If you want to deter your dog from eating sticks you can purchase bitter sprays that cause the object it is sprayed on to taste very bad and bitter. If you spray this on sticks that your dog chews they will eventually become trained to avoid sticks because they associate a negative taste with the sticks.
Remember if your dog is every exhibiting abnormal or unusual behavior, consult with your nearest veterinarian.
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