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How A Kong Toy Nearly Killed My Dog

Mila, Feb 6, one week before it all went bad

When Mila threw up her entire breakfast, I was concerned. I checked her over carefully. No painful abdomen, no fever, normal heartrate & respirations, ideal capillary refill. She was bright, alert, playful. Her usual self, but missing a meal.

When she threw up her entire dinner, after eating it with eagerness, I was deeply worried. Obstruction was the word that floated through my mind instantly. Again, I checked her over. She was keeping down water without any problem, still looked bright and alert, her usual self but without dinner. I knew we were not in emergency wake the vet up now status, but first thing in the morning, I would be calling the vet.

When she stood staring forlornly at her breakfast bowl, unable to take even a small bite, I became more than worried. I became afraid for my lovely young dog. Obstruction of her gut was now not just a neurotic possibility, it was a very strong likelihood.

Mila spent the day at my vet’s, swallowing barium and having x-rays taken over and over as the barium worked through her gut. By late afternoon, it was clear that the blockage in her small intestine wasn’t budging. I took her home to spend a quiet night being supervised, and brought her back very early the next day for surgery. It was Valentine’s Day. (Just for fun, I also brought in the 12 year old GSD who had suddenly started peeing blood, and the young cat who had also started peeing blood – both on the same day, Mila’s upchuck day. Some days here at the farm are like that!)

Thankfully, she sailed through the surgery and as I write this, is resting comfortably not far from me. She’s young, strong, bored but healing.

While I waited for the barium & x-ray results, while I waited to hear how she had fared in surgery, I wracked my brains for what could possibly be causing the blockage. Not in a million years could I have guessed the cause: the grey foam plug that Kong puts into its Aqua Kongs so they will float. My vet was also very surprised, and was kind enough to save it for me. So here it is:

Our dogs don’t have ready access to Kongs except during their daily walks or under direct supervision. Our dogs don’t eat stuff out of Kongs (they find that a waste of a good toy as far as I can tell). Occasionally, given multiple dogs running in or out of the house at walk time, one will sneak a Kong into the house. We use the orange floating ones with ropes, since we can throw them very far, and they (usually) don’t sink in our farm’s creek.

How Mila got the plug in the first place remains a mystery, but as the pictures show, no question – it’s a Kong plug. And it damn near killed my sweet young dog.

Please, if you use these Kongs, remove the foam plugs and safely discard them. And tell everyone you know about this hidden danger.

Familiarize yourself with the signs of obstruction. This article does a far better job of describing obstruction, symptoms and treatment than I can do.

I will be writing to Kong to let them know how their product nearly killed my dog, despite careful management and a professional’s almost neurotic awareness of what is safe and what is not.

Write to the Kong Company yourself (their website offers a place to contact them) and ask them to find a safe way to keep Kongs afloat. The company prides itself on dog friendly/dog safe toys. Including inserts that can come loose and endanger a dog isn’t dog friendly.

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“How A Kong Toy Nearly Killed My Dog” by Suzanne Clothier