John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Consumer Watchdog: Pet dog killed retrieving bouncing toy

The dog caught it on the bounce and somehow it went straight down her throat, into her gullet.
The dog caught it on the bounce and somehow it went straight down her throat, into her gullet.

A distraught dog owner who watched in horror as her pet choked to death on a hard rubber ball hopes safety measures will prevent similar accidents.

Paddy Ashley's dog, Zipp, would have been 4 years old on Christmas Day. But last month while she was playing with her, a smooth rubber ball suddenly lodged in her pet's throat.

"It was bloody horrible," she said. "I definitely don't want it happening to anyone else."

Ashley said the ball probably became slippery when the huntaway cross ran to catch it. The dog caught it on the bounce and somehow it went straight down her throat, into her gullet.

"Even after she was dead and totally relaxed it was still impossible to shift," Ashley said.

Masterpet made the ball but similar items are made by other companies. Masterpet general manager Pete Garwood said the accident was "tragic" and the company would look at putting a specific warning on the balls.

"While it might be a freak accident, we certainly don't want it occurring again," Garwood said. He applauded Ashley for contacting other suppliers about the potential problem. "There is a risk associated with it that we now understand which we didn't before."

Ashley said she asked for a warning to be put on the packaging to let people know not to throw it so it could bounce. She'd like manufacturers to consider putting holes in balls so a dog could breathe if a ball was stuck in its throat.

String attached to balls could also help people yank a stuck ball out.

Louise Tilly at Normanby Vet Clinic said if a ball was small enough to go down a dog's trachea, death was possible.

Ashley was not the first to have a bad experience with dogs choking. Lifelong dog owner and TV personality Jude Dobson said her pet had a close escape with a ball stuck in its throat. "I remember thinking, 'OK, if it was any bigger it would have got stuck'."

Dobson said she supported any move to educate dog owners on potential risks.

- Herald on Sunday

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