Re-Post: What The Kong Company Won't Tell You

this is the defective piece

This is a re-post of, I think, a very important post written last year by me after we almost lost Oliver because of a defective toy.  I am re-posting this because for months after I ran this story I received emails of almost identical stories where almost all the people emailing had unfortunately lost their pet because the toys just come apart and are easily swallowed.  If you have a pet, I know how very difficult it is to find toys that are truly safe.  We, at one time, thought these were.  I'm hoping this helps save someone else the agony and expense of going through exactly what we went through.

This is not a post meant to bash the Kong Company.  I, personally, will never buy Kong products again because of my experience with this company.  I choose not to give them my hard earned money.  My hope is that this post will be useful for those of you with dogs and/or any of your friends or family members who have dogs.  I also hope to save you the vet bills that we incurred.  The cost became so high with the emergency room taking the largest chunk that we began counting it in terms of how many months of mortgage payments we were spending.  It totaled months of mortgage payments in just a couple of weeks.

Many people view Kong products as indestructible.  At one time they even labeled their products as such.  If you look at the packaging now, that verbiage has been removed.  The reason, I would suspect, is because they are not in fact indestructible and, like so many other products, can be defective.

I was at the pet store the other day purchasing Nylabone Bones for the boys.  During the checkout the girl at the register commented "oh these are great and completely indestructible".  I said "indestructible??"  She smiled and said "yeah, no dogs can chew through these".  I then explained how wrong that statement was since my dogs chew through them.  It takes some time, but they definitely destroy them.  She looked amazed.  I felt the need to share this with her is because I'd hate for her to say this to customers and have anyone believe that any toy is truly indestructible.  It just isn't true.

Like so many of you, we had quite a few of the Kong products around the house.  We would fill them with peanut butter when we wanted a few minutes of peace and quiet and hand them out to a very excited Oliver and Emerson.  Emerson, being as obsessed with food as he is, had figured out exactly how to get any food out of any toy.  Do you know those large plastic toys that are supposed to be "challenging" and give them "hours of play time" while they try to figure out how to get the food out?  I've purchased 4 different types of these toys over the past couple of years and Emerson gets them figured out in 3 minutes flat.  Poor Oliver is still pushing the toy around the house, annoyed that he can't get a single treat to fall out.  But I digress...

My dogs are not only dead set on removing food from toys, but they are also heavy chewers.  For this reason {and because I've always been worried about preventing them from chewing off a piece of toy} we would only give them their Kong toys a few times a month, always for a maximum of 15 minutes, and always in the same room we were in.  Additionally, I always inspected them at the end of the treat session, washed them, and replaced them if they were getting the slightest bit compromised.  A bit OCD?  Possibly, but I felt it necessary to try and protect them.

Clearly my efforts didn't work.

Sometime in July, as I took the Kong toys from each of them, I saw a gaping hole in the one Oliver had.  The entire top was missing.  It was a clean cut as though it was removed at the factory, not chewed off by a dog. We could not find the missing piece.  What was even more perplexing was the fact that neither of us heard him swallow it and, for a 20 pound dog, this would have been quite the challenge!

the piece removed from Oliver is sitting on the top package
Well, long story short, he did swallow it.  Oliver got sick at the end of September.  We took him to the emergency vet when he woke up one morning and could not stop vomiting.  They did x-rays, ran bloodwork and could not identify the problem.  It did not show up on the x-ray.  We had mentioned the missing Kong but were told that it should show up if in fact it was the problem.  The emergency room vet kept Oliver overnight and diagnosed him with having eaten something he shouldn't have.

We discharged him the next day.  Within 24 hours we had to bring him back to our vet for dehydration and pain.  He couldn't keep anything down.  This went on for over a week.  He lost an enormous amount of weight - his ribs and backbone were sticking out and he looked emaciated.  We finally got in to see a specialist who ran an ultrasound on him.  Nothing.  No problems at all.  He assured us that if Oliver had ingested something that was stuck in his stomach the ultrasound would find it.  He also diagnosed him with having eaten something he shouldn't have and sent him home.

That night he got worse.  At this point he was so skinny, in so much pain and so sick that I was a mess.  Let me interject here that, although I've said it many times before I feel the need to say it again.  We have the best Vet ANYWHERE.  We really do.  She's the sweetest most caring person ever and her staff are equally wonderful.  They have all done so much for us it's truly unbelievable.  We are so fortunate that the staff at Milton Vet care for our little "babies" as though they are their own.  My vet got him in the next morning to run a barium test on him and lo and behold there it was......that stupid piece of Kong.  We all agreed that emergency surgery was needed and they went right to work.

He spent another night at the emergency vet for observation and then it was a long and sometimes painful recovery, but we made it.  During this time we reached out to the Kong Company.  The reason we reached out to them was because the piece that came off clearly was because the toy was defective, not because it was chewed off.  We thought they would stand behind their product.  We only asked for reimbursement of the surgery expenses which was a drop in the bucket compared to the other expenses.  I felt we could at least agree that the piece had to be surgically removed.

I was wrong.

The vet that the Kong Company asked to review our case concluded that it was my responsibility to have brought Oliver to our vet the next morning {after the piece went missing} and have her induce vomiting.  Induce vomiting on this huge piece of rubber!  When I questioned this judgement her logic was that because it went down it would come back up.  Scary.  It really is amazing to me that she would have suggested this.

Her additional recommendations were nonsense since we already followed them:  the toy should be bigger than the dogs mouth {it was, however, the piece that fell of certainly was not} and, the toy should be inspected after every use.

They felt a tiny bit of responsibility so they sent us a check for a small {very small} part of it.  I relayed my disappointment to them and they have chosen not to respond.

I guess the moral of the story is that there is not a product for dogs that is completely safe, although the toy companies don't volunteer this information easily.  Unfortunately, and please, for the sake of your dog, don't leave them unattended with chew toys.  When you choose toys, you're choosing them at your own risk since this company, at least, will not stand behind toys used appropriately yet defective.  And, if you truly believe they've swallowed a piece of toy, it may not show up on the first x-ray so don't give up.


Here are links to additional stories regarding defective Kong toys/Kong toys that have been chewed up and swallowed that I've come across on the web:


Nancy Stewart said...

I stopped letting my dogs have Kongs after I heard of a dog that lost a large portion of his tongue by getting it stuck in a Kong. I braid together thick pieces of Fleece and knot the ends and I take a plastic water bottle (soft plastic a pop bottle will do) and tie it inside an old sock. All three dogs at my house love both these toys.

NanaNor's said...

Hi, Thank you so much for reposting this-I never saw it the first time and so needed to read it. All of our dogs, over the years, have had Kongs-when we are home. However, after reading this, I will take our Hunter's away and also any other toys that may have hazards. Having spent $$$ on an emergency vet for one of our dogs-I don't want to go through that again. Thanks for the warning.
Hugs, Noreen

Erin said...

Thank you for the information. I will never buy anything by this company!!

Sugar Cookies to Peterbilts said...

So sad that Oliver had to go through this, but this is good information to know. My dog that passed several years ago loved her Kongs and I did buy them because they were "indestructible". I will use much more caution in the future.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Nancy - great ideas. Thanks so much for sharing!

Noreen - spending money at the emergency vet is never fun.

Thanks all!

Our Neck of the Woods said...

Oh my gosh, this is so crazy! I can't imagine how scary this whole ordeal must have been. And frustrating. Thank you for spreading the word! I've never heard of these toys before, but I'll be sure to steer clear of them in the future. I'm so glad Oliver is ok!

luckybunny said...

So scary! I had no idea!!