Care 

This will prevent your dog from eating wood, sticks and dirt

We’ve all seen the pictures of dogs trotting around the yard with a large stick in their mouth, enjoying their time chewing. What you don’t see right away are the dangerous consequences of this habit and the havoc it can wreak for the well-being of your furry family members.

If your dog is constantly eating wood or other foreign objects, it can definitely lead to problems that range from small to heavy. Some common problems include dental problems, which can cause your puppy to need a root canal, or other digestive problems, depending on what he is actually ingesting. Alternatives that you can provide your pup with include chew toys for puppies or tougher toys for adult dogs.

Do branches and wood really pose a serious threat to your dog’s health? In this article, we’re going to discuss the potential dangers of wood chewing and ways you can get your pup to stop!

Why dogs chew things

Chewing is normal behavior for a dog. Their need to chew stems from their basic instincts and their own unique way of keeping their teeth healthy. While our furry companion is not a wild dog, their domestication hasn’t eliminated their desire to chew and bite the items in their presence. A dog’s love for chewing is in its DNA!

Chewing is also a way for dogs to explore the world around them. “For a dog, chewing is like a person who opens a door and looks into a room,” says the chairman of the British Canine Behavior Association. Your yard is essentially their playground to explore, and sticks and wood are extremely satisfying objects for a puppy to chew during their adventures.

While we cannot eliminate the need to chew our pups, we can understand the reasons behind the want and try to provide them with safe chewing opportunities!

Reasons Your Dog May Be Chewing Wood

There are several reasons your pup might resort to chews and wood in your yard. This instinctive behavior can be aggravated by other conditions. Hence, it is important to educate yourself about the problems of dog chewing. From toothache to boredom, here are some of the most common reasons:

Toothache: This is an especially common reason in young puppies and growing dogs. Just like children, puppies have pain with growing teeth. Moving and waxing your teeth can cause major discomfort, where chewing on objects can help relieve that pain. It offers them the same relief as a cold teether for a teething toddler.

Boredom: Boredom can lead our dogs to behave destructively. If your puppy is overwhelmed with boredom, he may be looking for something that will take his time. Chewing on a stick could be the perfect solution to this problem, no matter how risky it is!

Separation anxiety: Similar to boredom, separation anxiety causes a dog to engage in destructive behavior. A stressed puppy may feel the need to chew, and chewing and eating wood can act as an outlet for stress.

You like the taste: Oddly enough, your dog may find the twigs and bark in the yard incredibly delicious. You might very well eat the bark for your dietetic pleasure. Some types of bark are known to be delicious for dogs. So don’t be surprised if your puppy wants to nibble on your tree.

Have to chew: Some dogs are more likely to chew than others. Some dogs require constant chewing stimulation and chew whatever they can get their paws on without adequate distraction.

Pica: Pica is a disease that causes dogs to eat non-food items. Really, anything can result in a dog experiencing pica. Nausea, stress, anxiety, hunger, or underlying illnesses can cause this strange disorder. If your dog is constantly chewing and eating random items, you may need to speak to your veterinarian about this possible disorder.

Why is it dangerous?

When dogs chew wood, their teeth break the wood into several sharp pieces that can damage their bodies in a number of ways. Think of these parts as hundreds of tiny splinters trying to devastate every part of the body they come in contact with. Something similar happens when your dog plays with foxtails and trips to the vet become extremely expensive. Some of the risks associated with chewing wood are:

Tooth damage: When a dog chews on sticks, he can exert great strength behind every bite. Chewing something with a hard exterior, like wood, can chip or break a tooth. Broken teeth can cause pain and possible infection. This can even lead to abscessed teeth.

Abscesses: When sticks and wood are chewed, hundreds of tiny pieces float around the mouth. These tiny pieces can lodge in the gums and cause an infection under the tissues. If these splinters remain in the mouth, the infection can grow into an abscess. Abscesses are incredibly painful and can cause severe swelling in the affected area.

Damage to the esophagus: Pieces of sticks and wood can be incredibly abrasive to the esophagus if swallowed. This can lead to esophageal damage and severe pain. Imagine swallowing a large piece of wood and how uncomfortable that must be!

GI obstruction: Wood and sticks must not be eaten, so they are not easy to digest. Twigs can get stuck in a pet’s stomach or intestines and cause GI obstruction. If not corrected surgically, a GI obstruction or blockage can be fatal.

Airway obstruction: Due to the irregular shape of the wood and the sticks your dog can swallow, sticks can get stuck in the throat. This can lead to extreme stress and even difficulty breathing. Anything affecting your puppy’s breathing ability is a major medical emergency.

Each of these complications can be incredibly painful, cause serious infections, and even be fatal if left untreated. If you believe your dog has consumed wood or sticks and is concerned about any of the above scenarios, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Block areas with mulch and sticks

When discussing sticks and wood, we often forget about mulch. Many forms of mulch are filled with pieces of wood and sticks and can be just as harmful to a pet if ingested. Mulch can be even more tempting to a dog because of its strong odor. It is safest to cordon off parts of your yard where mulch is present to prevent your pup from being tried. Mulch is just as much a threat as sticks and other types of wood.

Offer other entertainment

If you want to train your pup to stay away from wood and sticks, you need to provide them with a safer alternative to chewing! Hopefully, by giving them another outlet for their boredom or some other item to relieve their mouth pain, you can keep your furry friend away from the dangers of stick chewing. Some helpful toys include kongs, rope toys, nylabones, and any toy that emphasizes how indestructible it is. Give them plenty of opportunities so that they no longer feel the need to go back to their old habits. If it can withstand heavy chewing, it’s perfect for the job.

Clear the yard of sticks and wood

Trying to teach your pet not to chew wood while a yard is filled with sticks is like torture! Imagine trying to stick to a diet while in a room filled with your favorite goodies. It’s too tempting and we can’t expect our pups to have this kind of self-control. Do your best to go through your yard and remove sticks and pieces of wood so that you can make the training process of your companion a little easier. Repeating this process every few days is best for maintaining a stem-free yard.

Don’t encourage the behavior

When trying to rid your dog of the dangerous habit of chewing on wood, make sure that you never use twigs as a game shape. Throwing a twig into the park can be tempting, but keep in mind how confusing this can be. A dog will not understand why it is acceptable to play with a stick in certain places and not in others. Both parties take part in the training. So make sure you make this learning experience as easy as possible for your furry friend.

I’ve also seen dog toys that look and feel like sticks and lumps of wood. This seems too similar to reality and could potentially confuse your pup as you learn to stay away from the real threat!

Keep them active

Dogs tend to behave when they have too much energy. A bored dog with pent-up energy is a recipe for disaster and can resort to anxious chewing. A tired dog is much less likely to be bored or restless. If you spend more time with your furry friend and help expel their energy, a dog that turns less to chewing sticks will behave better. Taking your pup for walks, to the park, play tag, and other activities that keep him moving are great options for keeping an energetic companion entertained!

Negative reinforcement

If your dog is constantly chewing on wood and doesn’t seem to be responding to other actions taken, you may need to include negative reinforcement. This can mean spraying furniture or wooden objects with bitter sprays, a noisemaker to point out to those bad habits, and a firm no if you catch your pup chewing inappropriate objects. Every style of training is different, so this can be very different for every dog.

The story of a dog that ate wood

Below is a story of a beloved dog named Mervyn who was lost from ingesting mulch that also contained sticks. Mervyn’s family would like to raise awareness of this potential threat to your garden and hopefully prevent heartache for other pet owners who were unaware of the dangers!

Mervyn was a happy, healthy mix of dogs. Dogs are motivated by smell; Mervyn loved rummaging around in the backyard. A small flowerbed with mulch provided hours of entertainment. Mervyn was about to catch the tiny lizards when they buried themselves in the mulch. One day he even dug up the sprinkler system to catch one. It didn’t seem like a big deal as he walked through the dog door with mulch on his nose. Little did we know it actually picked up the mulch. The next day he didn’t want to eat so much and looked a little tired. He got diarrhea and just didn’t seem like himself. When he went to the operation it was too late. His intestinal tract was too damaged to be saved. The mulch caused severe irritation in the intestines; it rubbed through in several places. The contents of his intestines had gotten into his stomach. Mervyn was put to sleep on the operating table to end his suffering. It was really heartbreaking to lose such a special pet to something so mean. Mervyn seemed like a normal dog who wanted to dig for lizards. We never thought this would end his life.

-Lynn Barzyk

Mervyn experienced a devastating complication of wood uptake affecting the gastrointestinal tract. His intestines were badly damaged by the grinding pins and the clogging that caused foreign matter to build up in his intestines. Even though his owners took him for emergency surgery, it was too late for this cute pup.

Mervyn’s story shows how dangerous this hobby can be for your dog. We all want the best for our four-legged companions. It is therefore important that we are aware of the risks and how we can protect your environment!

Final thoughts

Chewing sticks can seem like a harmless pastime for your dog, but it has proven extremely dangerous for so many ignorant puppies. If there are a number of alternatives to chewing for our furry friends, letting your pup chew on sticks or wood is never worth the risk.

Be sure to keep an eye on your puppy in the backyard and stop this dangerous habit!

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