In this post I look at one of a dog’s favourite activities- chewing sticks and wood and looking at why it can sometimes go a bit wrong.
And by that I mean that after they have eaten the stick, they then throw up!
But for those of you in a hurry, let me start by explaining the three main reasons that your dog might chew and then vomit!
Why do dogs throw up after eating wood?
Some people believe dogs eat and chew grass as a way of making themselves sick.
But I don’t think that is the case with sticks.
Your dog is not chewing that stick in order to make themselves sick.
So what is happening?
Your dog is throwing up after eating wood for three main reasons.
 Piece of wood got stuck in the throat or blocked the intestine.
When a dog chews on a piece of wood, the wood splinters into smaller pieces.
Some of these pieces are spat out by the dog but some are swallowed.
And in swallowing the wood, a piece might get stuck in their throat and cause the dog to throw up.
 Piece of wood cut the lining of the throat
This is very similar to the point that I made above, but instead of a piece of wood getting stuck in a dog’s throat, the sharp edges of a splinter of wood grazes the dog’s throat which causes the dog to throw up.
 Piece of wood was poisonous
The final reason why some dogs eat wood only to throw up is because the wood they are eating is poisonous.
There is quite a long list of trees that are poisonous to dogs.
Some are poisonous because of the bark, some for the leaves and some for the seeds.
Many fruit trees have poisonous stems, bark and leaves.
These include cherry, peach and apple trees.
Your dog may have vomited because they have ingested the bark from one of these trees.
The oak tree is an interesting example of a tree that is poisonous to dogs.
It is not the stem, bark or leaves of an oak tree that are poisonous but the acorns- which if ingested will cause vomiting.
It might be that your dog accidentally swallowed an acorn…
Why do dogs chew sticks?
Dogs love to chew many things, not just sticks.
I think that they chew sticks for four main reasons; taste, teeth cleaning, mental stimulation, and habit.
You might think that it is strange to say that dogs chew sticks for the taste but they must have a certain musty “je ne sais pas”. Even if it must be quite a simple taste.
One of my dogs loves to chew sticks and I don’t think that she only does it for the flavour.
When a dog chews a stick, the stick helps to clean their teeth.
And I can see that by the way that my dog will sometimes chew the stick with her front teeth as well as then switching the stick to the side of the mouth.
Dogs also find chewing very peaceful, it relaxes them.
Chewing to a dog is very similar to some of the repetitive tasks that people indulge in.
Such as foot tapping…
The final reason that dogs chew a stick is out of habit.
Many of us throw sticks for our dogs to chase when we go out on our daily walks.
Sitting down and chewing the stick that they have just fetched is part and parcel of the game.
Dogs are perfectly designed to chew. Their jaws are one of the strongest muscles that can be found anywhere on a dog.
For many dogs, the ultimate chew toy is an animal bone.
And although dogs chew on bones mostly because they love the flavour of bones, can it be said that dogs love to chew sticks because they love the flavour?
Perhaps, but I think that can’t be the main reason.
I mean sticks at the best of times will only provide a very simple musty flavour to a dog!
Can a dog’s stomach dissolve wood?
Even if your dog eats a stick and doesn’t throw up, that doesn’t mean that you are out of the woods yet.
There are other things that can go wrong.
And so people ask if wood can be dissolved in a dog’s stomach.
The acids in a dog’s stomach are very strong- at times it is as strong as battery acid.
With a level below PH1 this is perfect for dissolving meat and bones.
But probably not wood!
It may make it softer but it won’t dissolve it.
Your best bet is that the wood has become soft enough to not injure the dog as it travels from the stomach and becomes poop.
What does it mean if your dog poops blood?
Another symptom that you might see is that your dog is pooping blood.
And this means that the stomach hasn’t softened the wood enough and it has cut the dog on its way out of the stomach.
Or it has cut the dog on its way down to the stomach!
And that is why you are seeing blood in your dog’s poop!
How can you train a dog to not chew sticks?
So perhaps the next question is if your dog ate wood and is throwing up, should you phone the vet?
At what point should you phone the vet?
If your dog has eaten wood and throws up just the once and then seems fine, then they might have dodged a bullet.
You probably won’t need to phone a vet.
But if your dog continues to throw up then it is probably time to open your contacts app and get your vet’s number.
Or if, after your dog throws up, they don’t quite seem themselves you should still phone your vet.
I mean it could be that your dog still has a splinter of a stick still stuck in their throat or intestine somewhere.
Can a dog be trained not to eat wood?
After reading all of this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to realise just how dangerous eating wood can be for a dogs.
So, can a dog be trained to not eat or chew wood?
This is a skill which can be learned by any dog providing that they are trained properly.
But it does also mean that if throwing a stick is part of your everyday life together, it might need to be stopped!
But there are lots of other things that your dog can safely chew on and get a similar level of satisfaction from.
Seeing your dog throwing up is a very scary thing to witness.
If it happens after they have eaten wood it can seem even worse because of that little voice in your head.
The voice that tells you that it was stupid to let them chew on a stick in the first place.
But hopefully, your dog will not come to any real harm and you will use the incident to make sure that in future your dog is chewing objects which are slightly safer than sticks!