A few months ago, Jenn of Hello Rigby shared the extremely horrifying story of when her pup Rigby began choking and she had to perform the canine Heimlich maneuver to save his life. Understandably, it’s a story and a piece of advice that has stuck in my head since then, because if there’s one thing you learn as a dog owner, the amount of ways your dog can seriously injure themselves is truly astonishing. From running into the street when she saw a person she loved to eating a fox tail and spending an hour gagging, it’s ridiculous how often I’ve nearly had to rush Ru to the emergency vet.
But just like Jenn, I’d like to share a PSA for all dog owners out there, because this is a very scary lesson I learned the hard way.
A few months ago, my coworkers and I started a kickball team in an East Bay league we had heard about (we lost every game, but that’s beside the point). Naturally I brought Ru with me to the games, since she enjoyed sitting outside on the grass, getting attention, and watching the balls get kicked around. One day while we were waiting for our game to start, I began tossing a stick I found for her. No big deal, we do this all the time.
Then, I toss it and the stick gets stick a little in the grass sharp side up, and Ru’s mouth goes straight down on the sharp end and the stick gets lodged in her throat. She pulls her head back, stick stuck way down there, and begins thrashing about uncontrollably. I dive the twenty feet to her side, firmly grab her, and yank the stick out of her throat. The sharp side is covered heavily in blood, and Ru continues to thrash about and shake uncontrollably. I get her still enough to pry open her throat and try to look inside. There’s some blood, but no visible open wound. We basically just lay on the ground clutching each other for twenty minutes, both total wrecks and continuing to shake. A friend got Ru some water, which we managed to get her to take a sip from, and she didn’t have any problem breathing, so I decided to not rush her to the emergency vet right away.
Ru was noticeably shaken after this ordeal. She just wanted to lay cuddled in my arms for the rest of the kickball game. She wouldn’t leave my side for the rest of the night. I was surprised when bed time came, however, that she didn’t want to lay in our bed like she normally would, and instead kept going back to her own bed. In the morning, she seemed low energy and didn’t want to eat, which is extremely uncharacteristic of Ru, so I knew it was time to call the vet, who fortunately managed to fit us in within minutes.
We love our vet. Although she was unable to see any open wounds in Ru’s throat, she managed to figure out through doggy chiropractic that Ru had seriously stained her neck and either just had pulled something or actually gave herself a herniated disk when she was thrashing around. She sent us home with pain meds and said to keep movements to a minimum. We would soon find out if it was a herniated disk and would need to begin taking preventative measures, as this would have to be something that would be managed for the rest of Ru’s life.
Suffice it to say, it was not a herniated disk, and three months later Ru is all better. But it was still one of the most terrifying moments of either of our lives. I’d be more willing to brush this stick incident off as a weird fluke, but a year before our neighbors actually had the exact same thing happen with their dog. They were throwing a stick, stick got stuck sharp side up, stick went down the dog’s throat. In our neighbor’s case, the wound was much more serious and required surgery. It was not an easy few months for anyone involved.
So please, please, please, do not throw sticks for your dogs. I know they are easy and around and your dog may love them, but it is far from unusual for the sharp side to get lodged in a pup’s throat. Stick with your chuck-it or frisbee instead.