Emergency vets urge dog owners to only play fetch with well-made toys

A young dog came within half an inch of death – after impaling himself on a stick during a game of fetch.

Charlie suffered a punctured lung and broken rib when the stick ripped through his chest after it reared up from the ground when he jumped on it.

The stick wedged itself into his chest at a 90-degree angle, missing his heart by just half an inch.

Staff from our pet emergency clinic in Doncaster raced to the scene to try to save the stricken pooch.

After rushing him back to the clinic, the team managed to stabilise Charlie before carrying out a lifesaving operation on his injuries.

Warning! Clicking here will reveal very graphic image of Charlie's wound.

An image of Charlie the dog on the operating table as vets and nurses try to save his life. You can see the large sharp stick piercing Charlie's chest. Image for Vets Now article on dog stick dangers
Charlie was extremely close to death after being impaled by the stick

Several hours of surgery and three nights in intensive care later, Charlie was well enough to go home and, amazingly, a month on he had made a full recovery.

His owners Mark and Michelle Richardson, released a graphic photo of Charlie in the emergency treatment area at Vets Now with the stick jutting out of his chest.

They hope the shocking picture will convince others to think twice about throwing a stick for their dog, a practice which can often lead to unintended injury and harm.

Sales director Mark said: “It seems the most natural thing in the world – but, as we’ve learned, letting your dog play with a stick can have terrible consequences.

“Please, if you’re thinking of throwing a stick for your dog, think again. Seeing Charlie in the pain he was in that night was just horrific – I wouldn’t want anyone else or any other dog to have to suffer that.”

Charlie was out for his regular evening walk with Mark and Michelle along a canal towpath near their home in Barnby Dun, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, when disaster struck.

As Charlie, a cocker spaniel/Border collie cross, chased after the stick, he landed on it at such speed that it cannoned up underneath him and speared itself into his body.

Mark said: “Charlie was 20 or 30 yards in front of us when we heard this awful yelping noise. We ran towards him and he was spinning around on his right front leg as though he’d broken the left.

“He was trying to reach the stick with his mouth to try and pull it out. There were five or six inches of the stick poking out but it was wedged solid inside him. There was blood everywhere and poor Michelle started screaming. It was just awful to see.”

Charlie was rushed to the Vets Now emergency clinic in Doncaster

“If just one person reads this and decides not to throw a stick for their dog then Michelle and I will be very relieved.”

Mark Richardson Charlie's owner

Mark phoned from his mobile for an emergency vet and was put through to Vets Now.

One of our vet surgeons and a vet nurse rushed to the scene and worked by mobile phone torchlight to try to stabilise Charlie, giving him painkillers so that he could safely be transported.

“It was a race against time,” said Mark. “Charlie was getting colder and colder and at one point I thought we were losing him. When they put him on the stretcher into the ambulance, I was shouting out, ‘Stay with us Charlie, stay with us.”

Charlie arrived at Vets Now’s pet emergency clinic at around 10.30pm and he was kept under close observation until the following morning as the veterinary team worked to painstakingly remove the stick and assess the damage.

As if a punctured lung and broken rib were not bad enough, staff were concerned that Charlie might also acquire a blood infection from the dirty stick.

Against the odds though, Charlie pulled through. Incredibly, he was eventually back to his normal self.

Except that “normal” for Charlie means no more sticks. “We’ve learned the lesson,” said Mark. “If just one person reads this and decides not to throw a stick for their dog then Michelle and I will be very relieved.”

More on this topic

An image of Charlie looking unwell as he recovers from his ordeal. Charlie is laying down on a pillow, wrapped in bandages. Image for Vets Now article on dog stick dangers
Luckily, our emergency vets were able to save Charlie's life

Ruth Robertson, one of the emergency vets involved in the incredible case, said Charlie’s horrific injuries demonstrate just how dangerous sticks can be to dogs.

“Charlie is a very lucky dog,” said Ruth. “The injuries he sustained are among the worst I’ve seen in a case like this and it really was touch and go for him for a while.

“In reality, he only survived thanks to the fast reactions of his owners and the skill and professionalism of the vets and vet nurses involved in his treatment.

“The image of the stick lodged in his chest will live with me forever and it still astonishes me that it missed all his vital organs.”

Ruth added: “I’d echo Charlie’s owners’ warning about sticks. While it’s rare to see a penetrative wound as severe as this, we often see cases of sticks injuring the mouth and throat.

“I’d urge other owners to only throw well-made toys for their dogs. There are loads of things which are far safer than sticks.”

The Vets Now clinic in Doncaster – where Charlie received treatment – is rated as “outstanding” in the delivery of emergency and critical care by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

It’s one of more than 60 Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.

Vets Now also offer an online video consultation service to make professional veterinary advice more easily available.

While the service is not suitable for life-threatening emergencies, our experienced vets are available to discuss any worries or concerns pet owners might have.

If a pet needs an in-person follow-up appointment at any vet practice, Vets Now will refund the online consultation fee, so owners never pay twice.