Center for Pet Safety has received numerous reports of dog deaths from ball toys lodging in the dog’s throat during active play. In the cases reported the pet owner was unable to dislodge the ball and the dogs choked to death, or nearly died because of ball toys.
In all cases reported to date, large dogs have been involved in these incidents. This does not mean that small and medium sized dogs are immune from ball toys lodging in the throat.
The near 100% fatality rate in the reports received leads us to believe that the number of ball-related incidents is likely much higher than previously known.
CPS sampled several brands of ball toys from both online and local big-box pet retailers to understand more about the toys currently available on the market.
The reports received indicate that heavier solid or semi-solid rubber balls with a smooth or semi-smooth surface are involved in these incidents. We examined the sampled balls to gain a better understanding of the sizes, weights and construction. We have also included the dimension and weight of a standard tennis ball for comparison purposes. While tennis balls are also known to obstruct airways of pets, they are sports balls and not produced or marketed for use as a pet toy.
Product Packaging Review:
The ball toys sampled include such marketing terms as “Indestructible”, “Bouncy”, “Super Bouncy”, “Floats”, and “Extreme Bounce”.
Warnings on the product packaging, in general, focus on the dog damaging and ingesting a piece of the ball. Two brands mention the risk of choking.
In some cases the manufacturer used a sizing term (Medium, Medium/Large, XL). Two brands used sizing based on the weight of the dog (40 lbs. & below, 40 lbs. & up, 30-65 lbs.) Based on our review of the product packaging, the sizing guidance of ball toys seems arbitrary.
Center for Pet Safety understands that there is no standardized sizing for ball toys. However, the majority of the ball toy products available at the time of purchase at local big box retail outlets were 2.5” in diameter.
Launchers are ball toy accessories that increase the velocity of the ball and the distance a ball will travel. At this time, if pet owners choose to use a ball launcher, Center for Pet Safety advises that the ball launcher be used to launch away from the dog, not toward the dog. The dog should chase the ball. The dog catching the ball, whether launched, thrown, kicked or rebounding off of another surface has been indicated as a primary risk in the reports received.
CPS has identified design flaws with ball toys for dogs that may contribute to the death of the family pet. When combined, the lack of texture, the size, the weight and the velocity of the ball along with the lubrication of the dog’s saliva increase the risk of the ball lodging in the dog’s throat. Some of these elements are within the pet product manufacturer’s control and should be considered as essential product modifications to prevent future fatalities.
Center for Pet Safety will continue to investigate the risks of ball toys and when appropriate will publish additional guidance for both pet owners and manufacturers.
Continued Use Warning:
Pet owners are advised to remove these types of ball toys from use. Continued use of these types of ball toys exposes your dog to the risk of similar incidents.