Small balls are a genuine danger to big dogs playing fetch

I have to repeat myself as my previous article on this has not been sufficiently picked up by the search engines (typical I am afraid) which is why I am writing about it for a second time! Boring right?! 🙄😉But necessary as small rubber balls used for playing fetch with a big dog can be fatal under some rare circumstances. It is all about unfortunate timing.

2-inch rubber ball is too small for a large dog playing fetch
2-inch rubber ball is too small for a large dog playing fetch
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I would refer you to the story of a dog who choked to death before her caregiver’s eyes who was unable to save her as she was unable to remove the small 2-inch ball from the back of the mouth of her dog Luna. Click here to read the story.

The exact circumstances as to how a small rubber ball choked a large dog to death have not be reported comprehensively. I have to guess the circumstances but it not difficult as the ball was used in playing fetch.

Even people who don’t live with a dog have seen dogs playing fetch. We know how it goes and there is a critical moment in this game. Here is how I see the fatal accident happening. It would be rare but possible. Steps 6 and 7 are the critical stages.

  1. The owner throws the small rubber ball in the park
  2. Her German Shepherd dog chases after it
  3. The ball bounces along the ground
  4. The dog catches up to the ball
  5. The dog is travelling at speed when she opens her mouth the catch the ball as it has bounced up
  6. Unusually, the ball and the open mouth are in perfect alignment which allows the ball to enter the mouth freely
  7. As the ball is small it is able to travel to the back of the mouth were it becames jammed
  8. As it is jammed into the back of the mouth it blocks the airway to the lungs
  9. The dog can’t get air
  10. The dog is asphyxiated
  11. The dog dies quite quickly
  12. The owner can’t remove the ball to save her dog as it is jammed hard into the throat at the back of the mouth.
  13. She sees her dog die before her.
  14. She bought the small red KONG ball on Amazon (my guess) which is 5.08 cms (2-inches) in diameter in all innocence thinking it would be great for fetch as it is all over the internet as a great toy for fetch.
  15. She did not foresee the danger which only exists with large dogs with large mouths in playing fetch with a small ball.
Small KONG red ball is too small for big dogs according to one dog owner whose dog gagged on it and died
Small KONG red ball is too small for big dogs according to one dog owner whose dog gagged on it and died

There is another hazard with sticks. Really dog owners should not play fetch with their dog using sticks. You can guess the danger: splinters of wood stuck in the mouth and worse.

Think of the potential scenario:

  1. Pick up the story from 5 in the list above
  2. The dog opens his mouth to grab the stick which has bounced upwards and is facing the dog’s mouth as he approaches the stick at speed
  3. The stick is jammed hard into the opened mouth
  4. The stick has a sharp end
  5. The stick pierces the inside of the dog’s mouth and severely injures the dog.

This would require urgent and very expensive veterinary treatment. Vets are expensive in the UK.


Dogs and sticks during fetch can be a recipe for trouble. While it seems like a harmless game, sticks pose several dangers to your furry friend:

  • Splintering: Sticks can easily break and splinter when chewed or caught at an awkward angle. These splinters can become lodged in your dog’s mouth, throat, or even their digestive system, causing pain, bleeding, and infection.
  • Impalement: A thrown stick can land in a way that leaves a sharp end pointing upwards. In their eagerness to retrieve, a dog could run onto the stick, causing impalement in the mouth, throat, chest, or abdomen.
  • Oral Injury: Even without splintering, sticks can scrape or damage a dog’s gums, tongue, or soft palate.

Here are some resources with more details:

  • The American Kennel Club (AKC) discusses the risks of sticks and recommends safer alternatives. Search for: Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Playing Fetch with Sticks: Is It Safe for Your Dog?
  • Reader’s Digest also details the dangers of sticks and emphasizes the potential for serious injuries. Search for: Reader’s Digest, The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Play Fetch with Sticks with Your Dog.

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