Sunday, February 19, 2017

Balls Are a Choking Hazard!

We're going to be putting away some of our favorite toys after an internet friend's dog nearly choked to death on a ball. Torch is a 45 pound McNab, a type of herding breed. He is seven years old, and a disc superstar. A couple of days ago, Torch and his human were at the park playing fetch with a medium-sized Chuckit ball, that's the one that's the same size as a tennis ball.
Get your dog a bigger ball!

After several catches, Torch suddenly began pawing at his face. The ball was down his throat, blocking all airflow. It was extremely fortunate that the pair had a friend nearby who could help save Torch's life. They squeezed his throat to slowly inch the ball up far enough for his owner to grab it. The ball they were using, a Chuckit Whistler, has a hole in it. This made it possible to get a grip on the slobbery ball.

By the time the ball was removed, Torch had lost consciousness. He was rushed to the vet, where he spent the night under observation. Apparently they can develop noncardiogenic pulmonary edema, fluid around the lungs, after this type of trauma.

If Your Dog Chokes On a Ball

  • Get help only if someone is immediately available, you don't have time to go find someone.
  • Expect to get bit. Your dog is panicking and can't help it.
  • Use both hands on the outside of his throat to walk the ball up toward his mouth, like you're squeezing it through a sock.
  • Seek veterinary care even after the ball has been removed, there could be complications.

Get a Bigger Ball!

Here at The Dog Geek, we have a long history of ball obsession. I've been using 2.5" balls for years, because they fit in my medium-size Chuckit ball launcher. That's the size of a standard tennis ball. I would never have dreamed that a ball that size could end up down the throat of a 45-pound dog. Brisbane was 45 pounds. 

Zip weighs a bit under 40 pounds, Godzilla is a bit under 30 pounds, and now I can't really be sure that a 2.5" ball is safe enough for them. Torch's owner thinks anything the dog can fit into their mouth behind their canines could end up in their throat and certainly the ball he choked on ended up much farther down than anyone could have expected. I am definitely putting away any ball the girls can fit in their mouths, and I'll be looking at some larger options now. In the meantime, here's what we're fetching:
Do plenty of dogs play with 2.5" balls their whole lives without incident? Sure. Have lots and lots of dogs died from choking to death on a ball? Indeed, far more than I previously realized. I've been concerned about too-small balls since childhood, when I was traumatized by a James Herriot story. The truth is that a ball is just the right shape to block a dog's airway, and once it's in there it's incredibly difficult to get out. Now I know that my previous concept of a "safe" ball was wrong, and I'll be choosing significantly larger balls and toys of different shapes. I don't need to bubblewrap m dogs, but I feel it's worth giving up tennis balls to eliminate this small but significant risk from their lives.


  1. I have had my KONG Wubba for about 5 months and it still squeaks

  2. Just yesterday our pitbull mix choked to death on a larger sized Chuck it ball. He's been playing with the tennis sized balls for years without incident. The larger one got lodged behind his back teeth. My girlfriend was by herself and could not dislodge it because of his saliva and she recieved multiple bites on both hands. I know this is probably a rare occurrence with the bigger balls but it can still happen. I hope no one ever has to go through the trauma and helplessness that she experienced. We are heartbroken