Labrador needed emergency surgery after suffering mouth wound

IT’S been the game of choice for man’s best friend since Adam was a boy.

But now vets are warning playing fetch with your dog could put them at risk of serious injury.

The grim advice follows the case of Watson the Labrador who almost died after fetching a stick.

The playful pooch needed emergency surgery after the makeshift toy left a gaping wound in his mouth.

The cut was just centimetres short of Watson’s airway – meaning it could have had fatal consequences.

His owner takes up the story: “Sticks are by far Watson’s most favourite thing, even more than food, which is unusual for a Labrador.

“He likes to collect as many as possible, cramming them into his mouth. On a recent walk, Watty picked up a stick from the garden and rushed into a field. He then found more sticks and started to gather them up.

“He suddenly yelped, sat down and started shaking. I looked into his mouth and could see blood on his tongue. My initial thought was he had bitten it.”

Image of vet playing with a ball
Vets are calling on dog owners to throw toys rather than sticks

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'There's no doubt the prompt care saved Watson's life'

Watson’s owner calmed him down, took him home and offered him some food.

But he said it was clear something wasn’t right when the Lab began shaking again and drooling.

He added: “I took him to Vets Now in Tunbridge Wells. The vet was unhappy with his breathing and made various suggestions. I couldn’t believe it was that serious as there was so little blood.

“The vet took the decision to give him a general anaesthetic and explore his mouth properly. She feared his airway had been breached and warned me his injuries could be life-threatening.

“I left the poor little chap with the vet, and she contacted me later to say the stick had gone in under his tongue, causing a wound the length of her index finger. Thankfully, it had stopped short of his airway.

“The vet stitched up his injury and prescribed painkillers and antibiotics. There’s no doubt the prompt care and well-informed decisions by Vets Now saved our very ‘special’ boy’s life.”

Emergency vets at Vets Now see a lot of injuries from sticks – and, tragically, some are far more serious than those experienced by Watson.

They are calling on dog owners to avoid throwing sticks and opt for safer toys such as balls or frisbees instead.

Asked if he’d try to stop Watson picking up sticks, his owner added: “I probably wouldn’t be able to do that without causing him a lot more distress.

“However, I will try to stop him picking up lots of them at a time. I will also introduce other toys which we can take on walks.”

Study shows dangers

One report into acute “stick injuries” in dogs revealed just how common they are.

Academics from the Royal Veterinary College found dogs suffer as many injuries playing fetch as they do on Britain’s roads.

Professor Dan Brockman, who co-authored the report with Zoe Halfacree, said: Several dogs involved in the study died as a result of their stick injury and these deaths almost always involved resistant bacteria and infection that spread from the neck to the chest.”

Do you know where your nearest pet emergency clinic is?

'Jura lunged for the stick and it stabbed his throat'

Another dog who suffered injuries after chasing a stick was springer spaniel Jura.

His owner explained: “Jura loves being out in open countryside and on the beach.

“We took him for a long walk along the beach, throwing his favourite ball. However, Jura spotted a stick in the sand and thought he’d retrieve it instead. He lunged for it, and it seemed to stab the back of his throat.

“Blood started coming out of his mouth. We looked inside and saw the damage. We rushed him to Vets Now and felt straight away he was in safe hands. Everyone was so professional and caring.”

Emergency treatment may be needed if your dog is injured so please contact your vet as soon as possible, or, out of hours, find your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or Vets Now 24/7 hospital.

Vets Now is open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on bank holidays and weekends, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

It also has an acclaimed referral service for vets in its 24/7 pet emergency hospitals in Manchester and Glasgow.

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