Most dogs can’t resist a tennis ball’s chewiness and fuzzy texture, but you might be asking, are tennis balls a safe chew toy for your dog? While some opinions are mixed on the subject, professionals at Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery in Loveland say there are much better chew toys to pick from. Doing so will save your dog’s teeth and overall health too. I know tennis balls are affordable and come in multipacks, making them a tempting option when toy shopping for your dog. Let’s take a better look at some major concerns for your dog if he chews tennis balls.
My dog loves chewing on tennis balls until they pop entirely. If your dog has a powerful jaw like mine, there will be no problem breaking the tennis ball in its mouth. This may lead to some serious choking hazards. Sometimes, half of the tennis ball can get lodged in the back of their throats, blocking the airway.
The ball itself isn’t the only choking risk. Some dogs really enjoy shredding the yellow-green fuzz wrapped around the tennis ball. Eating that fuzz can lead to choking hazards and intestinal blockages, which could require surgery and potential death.
Dental Wear and Tear
With all choking hazards aside, tennis balls pose another risk: dental wear and tear.
That round green fuzzy might seem soft, but tennis balls are designed to withstand tennis courts and rackets. A board-certified veterinary dental specialist by the name of Dr. Thomas Chamberlain warns that the fuzz on a tennis ball is actually quite abrasive, and accumulated dirt and sand increase the abrasive quality of the ball. As your dog chomps on the tennis ball, the fuzz acts like sandpaper, and it gradually wears down his teeth in a process called “blunting.” This can eventually lead to dental problems like exposed tooth pulp and difficulty chewing.
How to Play With a Tennis Ball Safely
If you have a Maltipoo or any breed prone to retrieve toys and other items instinctively, you may find that they enjoy taking things into their mouths. These risks are serious, but you don’t need to throw out all of your dog’s tennis balls. To prevent issues, throw all tennis balls and other dog toys out of reach unless he is being supervised during his play sessions. This is most important for dogs that like to chew on tennis balls because they are at the most risk for choking and dental wear.
There are a few other things that you can do to ensure your dog plays with tennis balls as safely as possible. You need to know you can get the tennis ball away from your dog quickly if it becomes a problem, and the “drop it” command is also handy to have in your arsenal just in case if your dog puts something else in his mouth that isn’t supposed to be in there.
Keeping multiple tennis balls on hand for a continuous game of fetch can help your dog stay in shape, but cautions against allowing your dog access to more than one tennis ball at a time. If a dog picks up multiple tennis balls, he could get one lodged in the back of his throat, which can be very dangerous.
If your dog can’t handle tennis balls without chomping on them aggressively, you may want to consider an alternative toy. A rubber ball, especially one designed for powerful chewers, makes an excellent tennis ball substitute without some of the risks. Some toys may seem harmless, but you should always know what your dog has; there is always a chance something can go south, and not paying attention can cost your dog’s life.