Are Regular Tennis Balls Safe For Dogs?

Written by: Deanna deBara

March 28, 2019

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When you think about Fetch Toys, chances are, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Tennis balls.

And that makes sense! Tennis balls are a dog toy classic. When you think of playing fetch, you think of throwing tennis balls in your backyard. (And of your pup chasing those tennis balls as fast as their little legs will carry them!) Tennis balls have been a fetch staple for so long, most pet owners consider them a go-to.

But what’s the deal? Are tennis balls the best Fetch Toy for your pup? And are regular tennis balls safe for dogs? Or should you look for something created specifically with pups in mind?

Potential Issues With Tennis Ball Safety

Shih Tzu with tennis ball

Now, tennis balls wouldn’t have become a staple if they posed a serious and immediate risk to your pup’s health. But that doesn’t mean they’re not without their issues! You shouldn’t give your dog a tennis ball and let them go to town. There are a few safety issues you need to keep in mind if you’re going to make tennis balls a regular fetch toy in your household.

So what, exactly, are those safety issues?

Choking Hazard

One of the major issues when it comes to answering the question “are regular tennis balls safe for dogs?” is the potential of a choking hazard.

By definition, fetch entails you throwing the tennis ball, your dog chasing it, picking it up, and bringing it back to you. That means that the tennis ball will 100% end up in your dog’s mouth. And even if you’re not actively playing catch, dogs love to chew. So that tennis ball is going to eventually find its way to your pup’s mouth—fetch or no fetch.

If a tennis ball is intact, it doesn’t present much of a choking hazard—but if your dog is able to chew through the ball, that’s when things get tricky. If your dog swallows a piece of the tennis ball or it gets lodged in their throat, it could block their airway and cause choking.

Dental Issues

Shaggy dog with tennis ball

Another potential issue with tennis balls have to do with your dog’s teeth.

While tennis balls have become a favorite for playing fetch, that’s not what they were designed for. They were designed for, you know…playing tennis. And—in case you’ve never seen tennis in action—tennis balls take quite the beating during a match.

In order to be able to take that beating, tennis balls are designed to be tough. (Otherwise, they’d fall apart mid-serve!) And while that toughness definitely comes in handy when a tennis ball comes in contact with a racket, it’s not ideal when that ball comes in contact with your dog’s teeth.

The green fuzz on the outer coating of a tennis ball is actually extremely abrasive. Over time, can wear down your dog’s teeth (that wear and tear has a name in the veterinary world—”blunting”). This can lead to a host of dental issues, which can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog—and extremely expensive for you.

Digestion Issues

Speaking of that abrasive green fuzz, it’s not only rough on your dog’s teeth—it can also be rough on your dog’s stomach.

Ingesting too much of the fuzz from tennis balls can lead to intestinal blockages, which could cause issues with digestion (or—worst-case scenario—may require surgery).

Are Regular Tennis Balls Safe For Dogs?

Black Lab With Tennis Ball

So, when it comes to safety and tennis balls, there are definitely issues to keep in mind. But at the end of the day, are regular tennis balls safe for dogs?

And the answer is yes—but with certain precautions.

If you’re going to use tennis balls as fetch toys (or for anything else), it’s important you only let your dog play with the tennis ball when you’re there to supervise. Supervision is key! That way, you can make sure they’re not in any danger of choking or swallowing pieces of the ball. Also, never let your dog play with more than one tennis ball at once. If your dog tries to get two tennis balls in their mouth, it could push one towards the back of their throat. That can increase their risk of choking. (This is especially important to keep in mind if you have a large dog with a large mouth, like a Golden Retriever or a Labrador.)

BarkBox Best Balls Ever Dog Toys
The Best Balls Ever > Regular Tennis Balls

You should also only give your dog a tennis ball after you train them to drop it on command. If a tennis ball breaks or presents a choking hazard, you need to know your dog will drop it immediately when you tell them to. So don’t use a tennis ball as a fetch toy until you’re confident your pup will drop it if you give the word.

Also, pay attention to how your pup interacts with the tennis ball. Notice f your dog is an epic chomper—and chews on the ball excessively, If so, you’ll want to replace the tennis ball with a more appropriate chew toy.

And last (but not least!), if you want to make your dog’s interactions with tennis balls safer, don’t go for a regular tennis ball! Give them a legitimate fetch toy that resembles a tennis ball—like the Best Balls Ever. Not only are these less abrasive than traditional tennis balls (which makes them safer), but they also have a squeaker inside (which makes them more fun for your pup).

What To Do If Your Dog Eats A Tennis Ball

Lab Mix With Tennis Ball

Even if you’re keeping a close watch on your pup, there’s always a chance that the tennis ball could break in their mouth—and they could eat part (or all) of it. If that happens, the first thing you should do is see if there are any pieces lodged in the back of their throat or visibly blocking their airway. If there is, remove it—and then get your pup to the vet as soon as possible. Even if the tennis ball doesn’t present a choking hazard, it can still get lodged in your dog’s intestinal tract. That can cause serious issues—and cause them quickly.

So, If you notice your dog has eaten part or all of a tennis ball, get them to the vet immediately. Your vet will be able to determine the best course of treatment—and make sure your pup is out of harm’s way.

Looking For More (Fetching) Articles Like This?

What Are The Best Fetch Toys For Large Dogs?
What Are The Best Fetch Toys For Small Dogs?
What Are The Best Fetch Toys For Playing In The Water?
10 Toys To Satisfy Your Retriever’s Urge To Fetch?
What Are The Most Durable Dog Toys?

Featured image via Bob Haarmans/Flickr

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Written by: Deanna deBara

March 28, 2019

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