Why Do Dogs Eat Sticks? – Sometimes They’re Not Just a Chew Toys
There are chewing sticks meant for your dog and created to combat boredom, then there are there actual sticks your dog can get into at the park. It’s fun, it’s natural, and the sticks are sold in stores, so it has to be safe, right?
Many dog owners out there may not be aware of the potential dangers that come with dog chewing sticks. As we’ve come to realize, what was a stereotypical depiction of a dog in cartoons and even in real life with a stick in his mouth may not be so safe after all.
Dangers of Stick Eating in Dogs
So, as it turns out, stick eating isn’t great for dogs. Just chewing can be argued as somewhat okay if you keep your eye on your dog all the time, but a dog eating sticks (actually ingesting), can cause a lot of problems.
First of all, splinters can injure your dog’s mouth, and the ingested pieces can puncture your dog’s stomach. How your dog plays with the stick matters, and the size does as well. Chewing sticks you can buy in the pet store were created for dogs, and are mostly non-toxic (but read the label!).
If you’re looking at natural sticks you would encounter outdoors, then there is the risk of contaminants and bacteria on the stick that could be harmful to your pooch. For example, there could be traces of bird feces, which is known for bacteria, and you may find dangerous mold on the stick as well.
The most common issues pet owners run into when their dogs eat sticks are injury-related. Aside from oral lacerations, your dog can also chip or crack a tooth. Chipped or cracked teeth are actually more of a headache than you would think. Sometimes if the chip or crack is serious enough, it could cause an infection so it’s best to have it removed (which can be costly!).
Sometimes we get a fur baby that just can’t resist chewing on sticks. It’s hard to dissuade them from something that makes them really happy, but there is a middle ground. You can either keep a very close watch on your dog when he’s chewing or try to encourage him to chew something more dog-friendly, such as bully sticks.
Why Dogs Chew Things
Why do dogs like to chew sticks anyway? Or better yet, why do they chew anything and everything? If we’re just talking about sticks, it could be the shape, the smell, or the texture, there are multiple reasons. If we’re talking about everyday chewing, there is a science to back it up.
When your dog is a puppy, he’s exploring the world and a big part of that journey is chewing, sniffing, and licking. Your pup’s go-to train of thought when something piques his curiosity would be, “hmmm, what’s this? Let me chew it and find out.”
Another big reason why your dog chews things (that may or may not subside in adulthood), is teething. Just like with human babies, teething is painful and uncomfortable, and young dogs will want to alleviate the pain by chewing on door frames, the corners of tables, and of course, chewing on sticks.
You don’t want to discourage chewing altogether (although eating sticks should definitely be avoided) but introduce something that your dog is allowed to chew on. For teething, wet and frozen rags can bring a lot of relief. Dog-safe chew toys that are age-appropriate for every stage in your dog’s life will also prove to be helpful.
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Why Do Dogs Love Chewing Sticks?
There are so many reasons why dogs love chewing sticks. The shape makes it relatively easy to grip with their front paws as their teeth gnaw them down. Sticks in nature may have an inviting scent, and sticks you can buy at the pet store are made for dogs, so you can bet that they taste good!
There can also be other health issues related to stick eating such as:
Anemia is basically an iron deficiency. Dogs tend to try and make up for deficiencies by ingesting random things and developing a condition called pica. Pica is where dogs or even humans have the compulsion to ingest items that are not food.
Aside from an iron deficiency, dogs that suffer from mineral or other nutritional deficiencies can also look for compensation from other items – and that includes sticks.
There are some digestive disorders that can cause pica along with anemia such as gastritis, IBD, and even worms. If you think stick eating is health-related, then we suggest scheduling a vet appointment for your furry friend.
Sometimes your dog is just hungry, and the stick smells pretty good. If this is the issue, it’s a quick fix. What you don’t want is to underfeed your dog and have him look for food elsewhere and ingest something dangerous.
Chewing on sticks can be seen as a type of destructive behavior, and a big reason for this is behavioral issues. A bored dog will definitely get up to mischief, which includes stick eating. If you suspect the problem is behavioral, then hiring a dog trainer could help.
The Dangers of Chewing Sticks
As we mentioned, stick eating can be a dangerous habit and cause internal and external injuries. Not every stick is a problem, and as we said before, aside from the components, the size also matters. Smaller sticks can become a choking hazard but large ones can splinter. The three biggest risks you may face if you let your dog eat sticks are:
Dental issues include damage done to your dog’s mouth, teeth, and gums
Digestive issues are what you face if a piece punctures or perforates your dog’s organs.
Illness associated with stick chewing includes ingesting dangerous substances that may be on the stick.
What Should I Do If My Dog Eats a Stick?
The best remedy is definitely prevention, but accidents happen. If it’s a very tiny piece, then your dog will most likely be fine. You can call your vet, but they mostly tell you to monitor your dog for the next few hours and see if there are any signs of upset.
While you’re watching your dog, check to see these signs:
- Pain – a very obvious sign that your dog may need a vet visit is if he’s showing signs of pain after eating a stick.
- Bleeding – any sort of bleeding from the mouth could mean the stick he ate punctured something. If it’s been a while and the stick should be passing through your dog’s system and you notice blood, then that’s a good sign that there is an internal injury.
- Vomiting – Vomiting can be a good thing if your dog gets the stick out, but if you notice that he’s vomiting up blood and the stick is nowhere to be seen, then it could be lodged somewhere inside.
- Issues Pooping or Diarrhea – If there is anything strange going on with your dog’s poops such as straining to poo or diarrhea, then you know the stick impacted him.
- Other Odd Behaviors – If your dog is doing anything out of the ordinary, then give your vet another call just to be sure.
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Don’t panic and try to manually induce vomiting in your dog, because it could cause more harm than good. You shouldn’t try to do this unless instructed to do so by a professional.
How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Sticks: A Steps-by-Step
We covered the why, and what to do after your dog eats a stick, but what about a prevention plan? That’s what we have up next.
Dogs chew sticks, and it’s quite common. You have your work cut out for you that will require time and effort. But it will definitely be worth it to keep your dog safe.
Keep Sticks Away
One of the best and easiest ways to manage your dog’s stick eating is to manage his environment. Remove any and all temptation from your dog’s view and voila! The problem is gone. Don’t just do this in your yard, but physically remove sticks on the road or in the park, and anywhere your dog can get into.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Dog
If you’re out and about with your dog in a space that is bound to have sticks, keep a close eye on him. Make sure your dog is always within your sights. Keeping your pooch leashed is a good way to keep him close. You should generally keep an eye on your pooch no matter where you are, especially if you have a puppy.
Your dog should prove to you over time what he can or cannot be trusted with. You could eventually get to a phase where you live in harmony without the need for much supervision, but until then, keep your eyes on your dog!
Show Him There Are Better Things
We had mentioned distracting your dog with other more appropriate chews, but a good way to make this introduction permanent is to show your dog that the alternative is better than the stick. It may take some time to find the ultimate chew toy for your dog, but don’t give up!
Kong toys are great as they are sturdy and reliable, but your dog may prefer something softer. Ideally, your dog should be supervised at all times especially at a young age to make sure everything is safe.
As your dog grows and you get to know his personality and know when and if he can be trusted, then you can consider leaving him alone with a toy for a short period.
Maybe It’s a Medical Problem
We mentioned that dogs eat sticks because of medical issues, so the problem could disappear if you address the health issues that are causing it. In order to do this, you have to be sure your dog is healthy so schedule a vet appointment and let them know why you’re bringing Fido in. If it’s a medical issue, there should be other signs that manifest as well such as a lack of appetite and lethargy.
When everything is okay and you have determined that your dog just likes to eat sticks, then you can consider implementing training.
The Drop It/Leave It
One of the best and most essential commands is “leave it” or you can choose “drop it”. This is where you teach your dog to not engage something or to drop whatever he has in his mouth. With any sort of training, you want to reinforce the correct behavior with rewards and ignore the bad ones.
There is no surefire way that works for all dogs, so it will take time to try different methods. Just like with any type of training, everything takes time, effort, consistency, and plenty of positive reinforcement in the form of tasty treats!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it okay for my dog to eat sticks?
While not all sticks will cause your dog harm, we would suggest not letting your dog eat sticks. Sticks are indigestible, which could cause intestinal blockages. Not only that, but the sharp splinters could cause internal and external injuries that will cost a lot of money to treat.
Your dog could also accidentally ingest something poisonous on the stick, such as pesticides, and the hard stick can also damage your dog’s teeth.
How do I get my dog to stop eating sticks?
You can get your dog to stop eating sticks by identifying the cause. If it’s a medical problem, stick eating should subside when your dog is cured. If it’s a behavioral issue, then it will take consistent training. You can hire a dog trainer for help or enroll your pup in doggy classes. There are many ways to train your dog to leave the stick alone such as basic commands, giving your dog an alternative, or removing sticks from the equation.
What happens if my dog eats a stick?
Sometimes nothing, but eating a stick could land your dog in the emergency room at the vet. Stick eating can cause injuries such as punctured organs or lacerated gums. There are times when small pieces of wood will accumulate and create a permanent blockage within your dog’s intestines that will require surgical removal.
What to do if my dog eats sticks?
If your dog ate a stick, don’t panic just yet. The vet will also tell you the same thing and advise you to monitor your dog for the next little while. Keep a close eye on your pooch and see if he exhibits any odd behavior. Sometimes the symptoms are much more obvious such as vomiting blood and difficulty pooping. If signs start to show, then schedule a visit right away.
Cartoons, movies, and pictures often show dogs playing with bones or sticks, but little do some people know, that these items are not good for your dog. Like with sticks, bones can splinter and injure your dog. Always opt for dog-appropriate toys and accessories at the pet store. We get it, sometimes even part parents need a break from taking care of their dog, but a stick is never the solution.
Instead, head over to the pet store and find some stimulating toys that can keep your dog occupied and give him mental exercise. These toys are safer and can also keep your dog occupied for a while.