The age-old game of fetch has been called into question in recent days in the U.K. by veterinarians, who warn that tossing a stick for Fido can be more dangerous for the animal than it looks.
The president of the British Veterinarians Association, Scotland Branch, Grace Webster, told The Times earlier this week that throwing sticks for dogs can cause the canines serious injury, citing a recent, well publicized, case of Maya, a collie that had a four-inch stick lodged in her throat that had punctured her tongue.
"She wouldn't eat and drink, and later on her jawline became swollen," Maya's owner told the Kirkintilloch Herald.
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An emergency procedure was needed to remove the stick, and though Maya fully recovered, her injury put the dangers of stick-throwing front and center.
British Veterinary Association President Sean Wensley called sticks "potentially life-threatening," the BBC reports.
"It's a risky business throwing sticks," a Cheshire veterinarian told the site. "We often have to put dogs under anesthetic to remove splinters, and sometimes have them in for repeat surgeries."
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Is it all a case of an excess of caution? British TV presenter Ben Fogle quipped on Twitter: "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?"
Nonetheless, BBC reports that veterinary facilities can see multiple stick injury cases a year, with dogs being either impaled or having developed an abscess, and that specialist animal hospitals see two to three serious stick-related cases per month.
"We don't want people to stop owners from playing and exercising with their dogs," Wensley told the site. "We just want them to know they can protect their pets by using safe dog toys."