Vet warns dog owners not to play fetch with sticks after puppy forced to undergo surgery

A veterinarian center is warning dog owners about the potential dangers of using a stick as a fetching toy after one puppy suffered serious injuries and was forced to undergo emergency surgery.

A Labrador puppy named Corona was referred to Paragon Veterinary Referrals after she swallowed a stick the size of a cigar.

Corona's owners said she swallowed the stick while out for a walk in the woods last month, according to the facility's staff. It wasn't until she threw up blood later that evening that her owners realized something was wrong and took her to see a vet.

A CT scan revealed that the swallowed stick had punctured Corona's esophagus.

Dr. Mickey Tivers, head of surgery at Paragon Veterinary Referrals, quickly operated on the pup to remove the stick and repair damage, according to a post on the facility's Facebook page.

Corona had to stay for eight days in recovery after the surgery. Vet officials said she is now “doing well.”

Experts say chewing on a stick that splinters can result in sharp points lodging in a dog’s mouth or the esophagus and cause tears or infections. Sticks that are swallowed completely, like in Corona's case, can get lodged in the dog's throat and “result in obstruction or infection of the respiratory tract,” according to Animal Wellness Magazine.

Certain trees including black walnut, black cherry, yew or red maple can also be toxic to dogs, according to the magazine.

“It's a good opportunity to remind everyone that throwing sticks for dogs can have unpleasant consequences, so we'd always recommend throwing balls or other toys, or rubber sticks, which make an excellent alternative to their dangerous wooden counterparts,” a post by the facility reads.

Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, and owners can train them to leave sticks alone by removing sticks and cutting foliage from the yard, replacing a stick with the dog's favorite toy as a distraction and bringing along a fetch-appropriate toy when out for a walk.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.