Shocking images show danger of old and broken toys

*Warning – graphic images*

A ball-loving hound became far too attached to his favourite plaything – when it got stuck on his tongue.

Loveable crossbreed Harley was having fun with the ball when he probed into a hole in it and became trapped. As he normally carries it around, owner Lindsay Knight didn’t realise anything was wrong and it stayed stuck for several hours.

When she eventually discovered what had happened, husband Adam took him straight to our clinic in Lincoln.

But Harley’s tongue had swollen so massively, delicate surgery was required to remove the ball and it was feared amputation may be required.

Happily, thanks to the skilled team the playful two-year-old has made a remarkable recovery – although the ball is now only kept as a warning keepsake.

Harley the Labrador-German Shephard cross sitting with his toy ball in this mouth
Harley was playing with his ball when his tongue become trapped in a small hole ©Vets Now

“Harley’s a Labrador-German Shephard cross and he’s just a lovely, gentle giant,” said Lindsay, from Lincoln.

“That green ball is everything to him. It used to have a squeaker in it but that came out leaving a little hole.

“He loves it and carries it everywhere with him, so I didn’t think anything of it when I saw it in his mouth.

“He had it on the school run and later in the car and then when he was lying on the sofa. It was there all day but there was no sign at all of him struggling to get it off or being distressed so I didn’t realise there was a problem.

“I actually took a picture of him and sent it to my sister-in-law as he looked so cute. It was only when she joked that it may be stuck that I went to check.”

Harley the dog sleeping with a small dog on top of him
“That green ball is everything to him. It used to have a squeaker in it but that came out leaving a little hole. ©Vets Now

Lindsay was horrified to find the ball was indeed lodged on Harley’s tongue and no amount of gentle tugging and manipulation would free it.

“It was horrible,” said Lindsay. “Adam and I tried for ages and even cut a hole to let some air out but that didn’t help.

“It was such a scary thing and I felt so guilty for not noticing. It was quite late in the evening by this time and we knew we needed urgent help, so we called Vets Now straight away.”

The couple were told to take Harley to our Lincoln clinic immediately and while Adam rushed him in, Lindsay stayed at home with their other dog Darcey.

The clinic is one of more than 60 across the UK that are open seven days a week for out-of-hours pet emergencies.

The ball stuck on Harley's tongue
Lindsay knew Harley needed urgent help and called Vets Now Lincoln ©Vets Now

“We had to sedate Harley to do a proper examination and see how we might manage to get the ball off,” said senior vet nurse Emma Ward.

“About a third of the tongue was stuck in the ball and it was really badly swollen. The vet made some small incisions into the ball while I pulled it apart and eventually we managed to cut if off.

“The tongue was very bruised as well as swollen and some of the top layer had come off. We couldn’t stitch it and there was a danger of it going necrotic and needing amputation but that wouldn’t be known for a few days.”

Thankfully that wasn’t the case and Harley made an excellent recovery as the swelling receded and he was able to eat and drink normally.

But Emma said his case highlighted the dangers to dogs of broken, worn or faulty toys.

Harley's mouth after the ball had been removed
Harley's tongue was bruised and swollen after the team removed the ball, but thankfully he has made a great recovery ©Vets Now

She added: “Dog owners need to be vigilant when it comes to toys. Some are terribly made and nowhere near robust enough.

“Our teams have treated scores of sick dogs who have swallowed badly-made, broken or worn-out toys, with some requiring surgery to remove the product from their stomach, throat or intestines.”

Lindsay said it was a huge relief getting Harley home in the early hours of the morning.

“He couldn’t get his tongue in his mouth at first, but it’s healed incredibly well. Darcey and Harley are inseparable, and she was really upset and wouldn’t settle until he was home. I cried when we got him home.

“We’re just happy everything turned out okay and so thankful Vets Now were there when we needed them.”

Harley lying on the floor with Darcey sitting on top him
Harley and Darcey at home ©Vets Now

All of Vets Now’s premises always have a vet and vet nurse on site.

We also offer an online video consultation service to make professional veterinary advice more easily available.

While the service is not suitable for life-threatening emergencies, our experienced vets are available to discuss any worries or concerns you might have.

If your pet needs an in-person follow-up appointment at any vet practice, Vets Now will refund the online consultation fee, so you never pay twice.