Are Tennis Balls Bad For Dogs?

Are Tennis Balls Safe For Dogs?

Tennis balls and dogs seem like a natural combination. Many of us have fond memories of playing fetch with our furry companions, the bright green ball soaring through the air and the ecstatic dog chasing after it. However, the ubiquitous tennis ball might not be the best plaything for our pets. This article delves into the potential dangers of tennis balls for dogs and provides alternatives to ensure your canine friend’s safety.

Do Tennis Balls Damage Dogs’ Teeth?

The sight of a dog holding a tennis ball in its mouth is iconic. But have you ever wondered if the tennis ball, with its fuzzy exterior, might be doing harm to your dog’s pearly whites?

Tennis balls are made to endure the force of a tennis racket, which means they’re made of strong and abrasive materials. The outer layer of a tennis ball is made of a fibrous felt, which can be abrasive to a dog’s teeth. Over time, if a dog often chews or gnashes on tennis balls, the abrasive surface can wear down the enamel. Enamel doesn’t grow back. Once it’s worn down, teeth are more susceptible to dental issues like cavities and infections.

Veterinary dentists have noted cases where dogs who are obsessive about tennis balls show significantly more tooth wear than those who play with softer toys.

Tennis Balls Can Be a Choking Hazard for Dogs

The size of a regular tennis ball can pose a significant threat, especially to larger breeds. For dogs with wider mouths or those who are particularly enthusiastic about their play, the ball can easily be swallowed or become lodged in the back of the throat.

There have been unfortunate instances where dogs have choked to death after a tennis ball became stuck in their airway. Such tragedies underline the importance of supervising playtime and ensuring that the toys are appropriate for the dog’s size.

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Broken Pieces Can Be Ingested

Dogs have powerful jaws. Many breeds can exert over 300 pounds of pressure with a single bite, making it relatively easy for them to crack or break a tennis ball. If a tennis ball begins to deteriorate, it might not just be the outer felt that poses a problem.

Dogs can tear the ball into pieces, and in their excitement, swallow these fragments. These pieces can then lead to blockages in the intestines. Not only are blockages a painful condition, but they can also be deadly if not treated immediately.

Safe Alternative Toys for Dogs

Given the potential risks associated with tennis balls, many dog owners look for safer alternatives. Here are some options:

  • Rubber Balls Designed for Dogs: Many brands produce balls made of non-abrasive materials tailored for dogs. They are often tougher (to withstand chewing) and come in sizes that reduce the risk of choking.
  • Interactive Toys: Toys that stimulate your dog mentally can be an excellent alternative. Puzzle toys, where dogs have to figure out how to get to a treat, can provide hours of entertainment without the risks of wear and tear on their teeth.
  • Soft Toys: Plush toys can be a good alternative, especially for dogs that like to carry things in their mouths rather than chew aggressively. However, ensure that these toys don’t have small parts that can be easily swallowed.
  • Rope Toys: Not only do they provide a fun tug-of-war experience, but they can also help clean your dog’s teeth. However, it’s essential to ensure your dog doesn’t shred and ingest the rope fibers.
  • Natural Chews: Things like bully sticks or other digestible chews can be a great way for dogs to satiate their need to gnaw on something, without the risks posed by tennis balls.


Tennis balls, while popular, might not be the best choice for our canine companions. The potential damage to teeth, choking hazards, and risk of ingestion make it essential for dog owners to reconsider their toy choices. Fortunately, the pet industry offers a plethora of alternatives to ensure that playtime remains both fun and safe. Always prioritize your pet’s health and safety, and when in doubt, consult with your veterinarian about the best toys for your furry friend.

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