Question: Hi. My parents occasionally watch my dog for me when I need to go out of town and they have a huge fenced in back yard with lots of trees. My 9 month old dog will grab sticks around their yard and chew them and sometimes eat them. She has thrown up stick pieces due to this before. I was wondering if this stick eating is harmful behavior and if you have any suggestions for how I could stop her. Giving her a filled kong or another edible chew while she is playing in the yard is really not an option because it causes fights between my dog and my parents dogs. Thanks!
Answer: Although anything non-digestible can be a foreign body and cause obstructions, in our experience a lot of dogs chew on sticks without an issue. It depends on how fine the pieces are chewed and how many pieces are swallowed. Risk of perforation is a possibility if there is a sharp enough splinter but the intestinal tract has a thick fibrous layer that resists puncture.
How to prevent the behavior? We hate to state the obvious but stick removal (at least the tempting big ones) and/or preventing access to the sticks are the sure fixes for the problem. Maybe another boarding or house-sitter option will suite your little one better (we can recommend both). Since your pup is so young it still might outgrow the chewing phase but that doesn’t help much in the interim. Will the dogs still have issues if the toys offered are not edible ones? There are some great hunting training toys that chewers tend to love (the ducks seem to be a favorite). Could your parents split the time outside so your dog could have its own chewing toy? Maybe your parents could have supervised group playtime at some point during the day.
So, in short, the vast majority of our stick chewers have no issue passing the pieces they ingest but there is always a risk with ingestion of foreign material. We still have time that your little one might outgrow the stick chewing behavior so try some of the above options in the meantime. And as always contact us again with your questions!