Are Tennis Balls Dangerous For My Dog?


Northern Virginia Dog Training

A common question our dog trainers in Northern Virginia get asked is, “Are tennis balls dangerous for my dog?”

The answer is yes and no, it really depends on how you view this subject.  After reading below, you decide.

Do Tennis Balls Contain Toxic Dye?

No. Know that tennis balls no longer contain toxic die which are bad for your pet’s teeth and overall health as they use to.  Now, modern tennis balls are made with safe dies that will not impact your pet’s health.

Is It True that Tennis Balls Wear Down the Enamel In My Dog’s Teeth?

Yes, but please read on.  Some say it’s the glue, some say it’s the texture, some say it’s the rough felt combined with the dirt the ball picks up causing a sand paper effect, etc.

Tennis balls do indeed wear down your dog’s teeth, but not to an alarming level says Dr. Tony Woodward.  Dr. Woodward is one of 104 board-certified veterinary dentists in the world, so he knows animal’s teeth better than anyone.  Dr. Woodward says he can always tell anytime a dog comes into his clinic who is a “compulsive tennis ball chewer.”   He says their K9 teeth start to wear down a little causing the tips to be more blunt.

In his opinion it’s not as alarming as many believe it is, he estimates only approximately 1 out of 200 dogs actually need to have dental work done because of this compulsive tennis ball chewing habit.  He is quick to point out that those 1 of 200 are generally dogs who  have a tennis ball in their possession almost non-stop.

If you read my blog on Playing Tug with Your Dog, I wrote about how your dog should only have the tug when actually engaged in playing with you.  It should not be an item that is left around the house and they have 24/7 access to.  If you follow that same principle with your dog and their tennis ball, this will never be an issue for you.  Only give the dog the tennis ball when you are engaged in a supervised game of fetch, but do not let them allow to chew on it or have it 24/7.

Is There A Choking Hazard With the Tennis Ball?

There is a far greater risk of your dog being affected by choking on the ball or getting a respiratory issue from the fuzzy-like substance of the ball, than there is with the enamel eating their teeth.  On a recent list of the top 10 foreign objects ingested by dogs on accident, tennis balls were #5.

You see numerous pictures on the internet (like the one at the top of this blog) of dogs with multiple tennis balls in their mouth, this is a major choking hazard/risk for your dog.  Try to limit your dog’s tennis ball to “one.”  It’s just like with children, you don’t let them shove multiple hot dogs in their mouth at once, same with dogs.

Again, as I stated above, that’s why it is recommended your dog only have these toys during supervised play.  If you find your dog chewing on the fuzzy-like material, correct him so he avoids this behavior.  Additionally, if your dog punctures or breaks the tennis ball in half, immediately throw it away.

A tennis ball can easily be caught in the throat of a dog, blocking off their breathing.  One of Oprah Winfrey’s dogs died awhile back from this same occurrence, so it’s far more common than people think.

I personally would recommend not using a tennis ball at all, instead, use something like a Kong.  These are hard (almost impossible to break), large (much harder to get caught in throat), durable, and they do not wear down your dog’s enamel.

Other Toys That Are Choking Hazards:

-Toys with removable parts (animals with small eyes, buttons, etc)
-Toys with squeakers (The squeaker is generally a small plastic piece than can be accessed and swallowed if the toy is ripped open)
-Bones and Rawhides (Small pieces can be broken off and lodged in your dog’s mouth)

Summarization on Tennis Balls:

In summary, tennis balls are an object that many dogs have always loved (and their human counterparts).  If you want to use tennis balls for your play/training sessions, keep it supervised, do not let them chew on them, and do not give them non-stop access to them.  If you follow this simple guidance, you should generally have a trouble-free and fun filled time with your dogs.

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