• 1.4 million dogs in the UK have been injured by sticks, suffering problems including throat lacerations, de-gloving injuries and even death
  • Treating a stick related injury can cost almost as much as a new small family car - over £7,600
  • Direct Line Pet Insurance hosts a ‘Stick Amnesty’ on Putney Common where dog owners swap wooden sticks for a safe eco-friendly throw toy taken from a ‘Dog Toy Tree’ sculpture designed by artist Sophie Marsham

New research from Direct Line Pet Insurance1 reveals 1.4 million (14 per cent)dogs have been injured by a stick across the UK.  Dogs can be impaled if they run onto a stick that has lodged in the ground or suffer painful injuries if they bite a stick and it splinters into their mouth.  Over 36 per cent of dog owners (4.9 million) play fetch with their dog using sticks found on the ground rather than a specially designed dog toy made from a safe material such as natural rubber or rope.

It is estimated that pet insurers process a claim every 30 minutes2 from a dog owner whose pet has been injured by a stick.  The cost of treating these injuries can be significant; a dog whose throat was injured by a piece of wood required veterinary care costing over £7,600.  The average pet insurance claim for a stick-related injury to a dog is £795.

The most common stick-related pet insurance claims are for treatment to tackle wounds or lacerations a dog has received.   If a stick or piece of wood impales a dog and breaks off in their mouth it can damage the windpipe, oesophagus or even pierce the jugular vein.  They also face risk from splinters that may not always be obvious but can migrate deeper into the body, or cause infections and abscesses.  The injuries can be severe, which is traumatic for both pet and owner. Direct Line has received claims for de-gloving injuries where the top layers of an animal’s skin and tissue have been ripped from the underlying muscle, connective tissue and bone.

Dog owners whose animals have been injured by sticks state the most common issue impacting almost one in ten dogs (891,000) has been when a dog has chewed on a stick it has found.  Over 690,000 injuries have been caused to dogs when playing fetch with a stick, 396,000 when the owner has thrown it and 297,000 when someone else has.  The research highlights the risk of strangers throwing a stick for a dog that they think they will enjoy chasing after, but which could result in serious injury.

Eva Sandstra-Bennett, Head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, said: “Playing fetch with a dog is one of those traditional games pet owners and their animals both adore.  However, sticks can cause life threatening injuries to an animal, so we would urge pet owners to throw sustainable, specially designed dog toys instead.  The potential for physical and emotional trauma for both pet and owner is completely avoidable when playing fetch by simply changing away from a stick.  Owners whose animal is injured by a stick and aren’t covered by insurance risk paying out thousands of pounds in vet bills to treat injures and cover the cost of rehabilitation.”     

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Notes to Editors

1 Research conducted by Consumer Intelligence amongst 996 dog owners between 1st and 3rd October 2019.  Scaled up figures based on an estimated 9.9 million dogs in the UK.  Source:

2 Analysis of Direct Line Pet Insurance claims data January 2017-June 2019 with scaling applied based on market share. 

For further information please contact:

Akshay Patel

Direct Line Group

Tel: 01651 832 145

Email: [email protected]

Nick Andrews

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

[email protected]

0207 025 6452

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting