Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Chuck-It Ball Warning

This is more along the lines of not-so-tasty-Tuesday, but I think the word needs to go out.

A friend of mine has Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Her dogs are totally crazy little balls of muscle. Tess is her oldest, and is by far the most standoffish of her dogs. Which is to say, she's okay with being petted, but she won't fling herself at people to make the petting happen. Pirate is violently affectionate and absolutely loves attention. The puppy, Mercy, is much like Pirate, in that people are awesome and exist to pet the dog and be licked. Pirate and Tess are both active in agility and barn hunt as well as doing breed showing.

Mercy Facebook-5036
Puppy Mercy

At a show two weekends ago, my friend noticed that Pirate was acting a little off. He puked a few times on Thursday, but he has been known to get car sick, so she didn't think too much of it at first. He didn't seem to be sick. By Sunday, though, he was seriously "off" for him, not wanting to eat and not making much effort to get everyone to love on him.

They began a rather horrible week long journey of vet visits, IV fluids, anti-nausea injections, and antibiotics. X-rays didn't show a clear blockage, but since Pirate is low in belly fat, x-rays are harder to read on him. And of course, there are materials that don't show up well on x-rays anyway. By Wednesday afternoon, they made the decision to do an exploratory surgery on Pirate to see if they could find and remove a blockage that they thought may perhaps be in there.

Chuck-It Ball
Pirate before, during, and after this ordeal

Turns out, he did indeed have a blockage, and they were able to safely remove it. My friend posted a picture and description of the item on Facebook, and asked if anyone had an idea of what it could be. Pirate is not prone to eating non-food items, so it was very out of character for him to have eaten what appeared to be a rubber plug of some kind.

I actually tentatively suggested that the plug was from a rubber Chuck-It ball, and asked if she could clean it up a bit more (the only picture was with it still grimy with stomach crud). It looked like the right shape, and I knew that Pirate loved those balls. Sadly, it turns out that I was right.

Chuck-It Ball
Hard to believe this little piece of rubber caused all these problems

The only reason I had any idea what this piece was was because my dogs removed the plug from a chuck-it ball earlier this year. At the time, I was more worried about their tongues being able to get inside the ball and potentially stuck, since it only had the one hole where the plug came out (toys with only one hole have been in the news lately because of a dog who died after their tongue became stuck inside the toy and blood supply was cut off, leaving the owners with the choice of amputating the tongue or putting their dog down). I threw away the plug and removed the ball from the ones my dogs are allowed to play with. But it stuck in my brain enough to recognize it, especially once the piece removed from Pirate was cleaned up and was revealed to be orange- the same orange as a chuck-it ball, in fact.

Fortunately, Pirate is making a good recovery after his surgery last week. He still has staples in. He won't be able to compete in Barn Hunt this weekend due to activity restriction. But in the long run, he should be just fine. Unfortunately, it took $3,800 in vet bills to take care of this situation. And not many people I know of can just sneeze at that amount of money, though my friend will happily pay it in order to have her dog healthy.

Chuck-It was contacted by her with her concerns after this happened. What she really wanted was a response from them to her suggestion that they make the plug in these balls smaller, so it would pose less risk to a dog if it were accidentally swallowed. (We don't believe Pirate deliberately ate this. He most likely was chewing on it a bit and the plug popped out into his mouth, and it was just easier to swallow than to spit it out.) The company has, as yet, not responded in any way.

I know a lot of people use these rubber chuck-it balls as a safer and more durable alternative to tennis balls. The fuzz on tennis balls can wear down teeth, and tennis balls are easily broken and pulled apart, even in the course of casual play. But when this was posted about on Facebook, most people had no idea that these balls even had a plug that could come out. And Pirate's owner, and I, think that people should be aware of this.

I'm not saying to never use these balls. But I am saying that you should be aware of this potential danger. I never let my dogs have these unless we are actively playing with them, and I can easily see if one of the plugs were to come out and potentially be swallowed, before it caused all the issues that Pirate had to go through.

And it would be nice if the company responded.

Update: When sharing this story on Facebook, Pirate's owner was contacted by a woman with a 75 lb dog who also had an obstruction from the plug in this ball, in July of this year. So this is obviously not a problem limited to small dogs like Pirate (37 lbs).


  1. Very scary - thank you for the warning! I'm glad Pirate is on the mend.

  2. As with anything else I think this is a prime example why it's important to monitor your dogs when they play with toys. I know a lot of people leave toys out for their dogs, I can't do that with mine (they will scrap) so the only time they have toys is under direct supervision.

    I'm glad Pirate is having a good recovery so far. It sucks when they eat things they shouldn't!

  3. Oh no!! How terrifying! My dogs have a Chuck-It ball, but I always monitor them with toys, because Ethel, my youngest dog, will destroy them. I always interact with them myself, so they can't stop and destroy, although it has happened before! Luckily, they spit any bits they chew off out! Glad Pirate is back on the mend.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. Education is key and I love playing with the chuck it ball. Definitely will share.

  5. Thank you for sharing this; scary stuff indeed especially considering how popular they are.

  6. I'm picking up my corgi today who has been in the hospital for 2 days recovering from an intestinal obstruction from the plug/squeaker that he chewed out of a ChuckIt ball. $4k vet bill and a lot of heartache and pain for or family. I also contacted PetMate who makes these, with no reply.

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  8. I had googled chuck-it because I was contemplating a purchase, thinking I would get feedback about how much dogs and pet parents enjoyed using the product. I had no idea there could be a plug around the squeaker and was very dismayed to find several posts about dogs being seriously injured.. Thanks so much for taking the time to post about this issue.

  9. Hello I am wondering if you were ever contacted?

    1. No, my friend never received any response from the company about this.