Dog chokes to death during game of fetch, vet questions toy

A Snohomish County family is devastated after their dog choked to death during a game of fetch. The veterinarian who treated the dog says the design of the ball may have played a role.

KIRO7 met sweet, loving, energetic Bentley back in January, when his family was trying to cope with losing his pal Kado in a suspected dog poisoning. His owners, Kathy and Lee Goltscher, were heartbroken.

They never expected to watch another one of their dogs die so tragically, but Friday -- during a routine game of fetch with a ball Bentley had for years -- the pit bull mix suffocated.

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"I immediately ran over to him and said 'OK, drop the ball.' I didn't realize immediately that the ball -- he couldn't drop it because it had already gone into his throat,” Lee explained, standing in the front yard where the whole ordeal unfolded.

Lee sliced open his finger on Bentley's teeth trying desperately to dislodge the ball.

“He was in such terror,” Lee said, still traumatized.

Dr. Joel Chatterson, the veterinarian Lee rushed Bentley to, couldn't get it either.

"It was really, really in there,” Dr. Chatterson said.

The ball was thick, hard rubber with very little give, but Dr. Chatterson believes a hole in the middle is what sealed Bentley's fate.

“If that ball didn't have the hole, then maybe the Heimlich like you do on people would work but you couldn't build up -- because of that hole -- you couldn't build up enough pressure,” Dr. Chatterson explained.

He says the safest balls for fetch are solid and flexible. That means if one does get stuck you can likely grab it.

"I didn't realize there was a danger. I never thought about it happening like that,” Lee said. But just like that, another member of the Goltscher family is gone.