It just may be the first game any dog owner plays with a new pup: fetch. You throw a stick, and your pup runs after it with pure glee. Dogs love to play, especially with their humans, and fetch provides them with great exercise. But what is it about sticks that they specifically love so much?
Why do dogs love chewing sticks?
Not only do dogs love catching sticks in a good ol' game of fetch, our canine companions seem to love chewing them as well. This is because sticks closely resemble bones, which dogs would naturally eat if we didn't feed them commercial dog food. Bones are covered in meaty flavors that drive dogs wild. Sticks, of course, have more of an earthy flavor, and dogs are sure to know the difference; they just don't mind! Dogs accept the gritty taste of sticks as a welcomed substitute to bones.
Most of the time, dogs are just chewing sticks, spitting them back out and not eating them. If matters move beyond simply chewing on the bone-shaped objects, there may be more serious issues going on. If your dog is actually eating sticks, this may be a symptom of greater medical issues including:
- Nutritional or mineral deficiency
- Digestive disorders
- Dental/oral issues
- Behavioral issues
If you see your dog eating a stick, attempt to calmly and gently remove the stick from his mouth. If ingestion has already taken place, contact your veterinarian immediately for further guidance and investigation.
The dangers of chewing sticks
Because sticks are so commonly associated with dogs and play, they are often regarded as harmless. But a dog chewing on a stick may find himself in a sticky situation. Like bones, sticks pose serious danger for dogs if pieces are ingested. Sticks can be dry and brittle and easily break. If a broken shard is ingested, it can lodge in your dog's throat or rupture the lining of his stomach. An ingested stick can cause damage from the esophagus to the rectum.
The type of stick a dog chews is also important. Sticks that fall from fruit trees have rich, aromatic tastes that are appealing to dogs. Some fruit tree sticks, however, can contain toxins that will upset a dog's stomach. Branch pieces from the following trees contain substantial amounts of poison and can make dogs very sick:
- Black walnut
- Black cherry
- Red oak
- Black locust
- Red maple
Keeping your dog stick safe
The best way to keep your dog safe when it comes to sticks is to simply keep them separated! Ideally, you want to keep your little guy away from wood but this can be difficult. If you do allow your dog to chew on sticks, make sure they are from safe trees. Also make sure the stick is big enough that your dog cannot easily swallow it. The stick should be much bigger than his mouth.
To keep your dog away from sticks altogether, you can teach commands like "leave it" or "drop it." This lets your dog know the object he's investigating is dangerous and shouldn't be tampered with. Reward his obedience with a small treat, and he'll be sure to leave those sticks alone!
Chew toys are great stick substitutes. Face it, dogs just like to chew on things. Distraction is a great tool for young dogs especially, so instead of keeping them away from items you don't want them to have, guide them towards safe and fun alternatives. Chew toys and artificial chew sticks are a great way to keep your pet happy and healthy.