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Georgina's 'stick injury'.

Although dogs love to play with sticks, we occasionally have to treat dogs which have injured themselves whilst playing with them. Georgina was one such unlucky dog who was presented to our hospital, late one afternoon after her walk had been cut short by a suspected 'stick injury'. Her owner described how she had run to retrieve a stick and, as she approached the stick Georgina yelped and immediately appeared very uncomfortable. 

All stick injuries require careful examination and this was duly carried out by Graham Hayes. It was immediately apparent that Georgina's injury was much more severe than most: a large stick was palpable along the entire length of her neck. The end of the stick could be felt overlying her rib cage! Thankfully, the stick had not obviously damaged any vital structures.  Georgina was anaesthetised to obtain an x-ray  of her neck so that any additional 'hidden'  injuries could be identified.


X-rays of Georgina’s neck showing the stick (outlined in red in the second x-ray).

Georgina underwent emergency surgery that evening to remove the stick and repair a large laceration in her oesophagus (food pipe). The 25cm long stick had penetrated her oesophagus just above the larynx (voice box). It had passed down her neck and under her left shoulder blade. The stick extended from the back of her throat to the fourth rib! The severity of her injury meant that she had to stay in our hospital for several days with a surgical drain in place. To allow the oesophagus to heal, Georgina was fed through a stomach tube for 7 days.

Fortunately, with prompt presentation and appropriate surgical treatment and nursing care, Georgina made an excellent recovery. Happily, most injuries are relatively minor. However, we occasionally see life threatening complications if vital organs are damaged. Furthermore, if stick remnants are retained within the tissues of the neck persistent, severe infections can develop. 

Although Georgina will probably still want to pick up and chew sticks on her walks, her owner will only be throwing safe toys for her to retrieve from now on. 

Many thanks to Georgina's owner for allowing us to share this story and highlight the potential dangers of throwing sticks for dogs.

Georgina recovering from surgery in our hospital.

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