Of course we’ve seen dogs with a stick in his mouth; dogs love to play and fetch a stick – he often will wind up chewing on it, just like a bone. A puppy under six months, you are going to see lots of non-food items go into his mouth! But what should you do when your dog is actually eating sticks? Then it could be a problem.
Some wooden sticks or tree branches come from trees that may be poisonous to dogs. Think of the chestnut, oak, apple, buckeye, and locust. These trees will have nuts, conkers, flowers, bark and leaves, some of which contain toxins, such as Aesculin or others, which are deadly to dogs.
The other danger of a dog eating sticks from these trees is choking and blockages in the intestines. If a dog swallows parts of a tree branch, those sharp edges can perforate your pup's digestive tract or esophagus.
It Can Be a Sign of a Medical Problem
A potential medical issue is anemia and low blood cell count. Vitamin or mineral deficiencies, digestive disorder or oral and dental problems can all cause your dog to eat sticks.
If the reason your dog is chewing on sticks is because they're anemic, it means they have a low red blood cell count and they might have developed pica, which causes the dog to eat non-edible items.
Anemia can be caused by different medical conditions such as intestinal bleeding or leukemia. It could also be that your dog's food isn't providing them with sufficient nutrients. All the preservatives in bad commercial foods mean your dog isn’t eating right and is catching up on on that by eating sticks.
Finally, some dogs eat sticks because they developed inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), tumors, worms, gastritis, or stomach inflammation. If your pup has gum disease or cavities, stick eating might be helping to alleviate the discomfort for them.
It Can Be Hunger
Have you noticed that your dog might not be eating all their food that you put in the bowl? If that’s the case, or if other pets in your household are stealing some of your pup's food, then the dog might be hungry. A stick likely taste good enough for your pet to want to consume it when they're hungry.
It Could Be Behavioral Issues
Anxiousness, stress, boredom, fear, and craving for attention – all these behavioral issues and conditions can cause dogs to eat sticks as a way to fight off stress.
Get Your Dog to the Vet
If your dog eating sticks became a common occurrence, the veterinarian will need to give your pup a physical examination. They will blood tests to find out if the dog is anemic or has mineral deficiency. X-rays will reveal if the dog has digestive disorders.
The vet might also decide to do MRI or CT scans. They will examine the dog's teeth for dental problems and refer the dog to a veterinary dentist if it is something more complicated.
If this is a behavioral problem, it will require patience, attention, love, and hard work on your part as you work with retraining your pooch. You may even need the help of a dog training or especially a canine behaviorist.
Instead of tossing sticks, encourage your dog to play with dog toys. There are many different types that your pooch will favor and that are safer than wooden sticks: chew toys, rubber bones, balls, and other things.
Ideally, you also remove fallen sticks, tree branches, bark, nuts, leaves, flowers and pieces of wood debris that fall from the trees or avoid the areas where there's a lot of that stuff around. This will keep your dog safer and away from returning to their old habits of chewing on sticks.