Why Tennis Balls Are Dangerous for our Dogs

As a tennis player,  I had always saved the old balls, and used them to play with my Lab, Beaumont.  We never had a problem, but, as a Lab, Beaumont has a very soft mouth.  He was started on live birds as a 5-wk old puppy by his breeder, and learned to carefully balance the amount of pressure he exerts when retrieving:  strong enough to avoid losing/dropping the bird, but gentle enough to avoid crushing it.  I would add some grouse scent, etc. to the surface of tennis balls that I’d sail out into the field, and he loved tracking them down.  All I had to do was stand there, hitting the balls, while he wore himself out.

So, I was very surprised to hear that tennis balls could be dangerous, and I have been very careful about finding all the stray balls and preventing Dutch from accessing them, even though I didn’t know why.  There is something about them he loves, and if I leave my tennis bag on the floor even briefly when I return home, he dives into it searching for balls.  I didn’t know why they were dangerous, but I wasn’t about to take any chances.  So, when I read the information below, I understood much more about this problem, and wanted to share it with you:

A large, strong dog with a powerful jaw can split a tennis ball in a matter of minutes if not seconds!  And those halves can be swallowed quiet effortlessly.  Even a whole tennis ball can be easily swallowed by large or giant dogs!

Always make sure that the toys you are training with are large enough and safe for your dog!  Play comes with excitement and excitement sometimes comes with some abnormal chewing and sometimes grabbing and possessive behaviors.  Make sure that your dog does not choke when he runs around celebrating with his newly won toy!

The fuzz or felt from the regular tennis ball can also be ripped off and swallowed and like swallowing the whole ball, this can be a danger.  The fuzz does not break down in your dog’s stomach or in his intestines and if he swallows enough or any other foreign body it can get stuck in his stomach.

No Felt is Safe even if it is Marketed for Your Dog!

Stomach and bowel obstruction surgery is not only painful for your dog it is also expensive and potentially deadly!

And, last but certainly not least, is the fact that the glue used to glue the felt to these balls can break down the enamel on your dog’s teeth.

You can imagine how acidic glue must be, and some dogs chew and chew and chew and chew on a tennis ball, this makes the glue wet and then with the motion of the chewing the abrasiveness of the felt damages your dog’s teeth.

Even when your dog releases his ball, the glue remains on your dog’s teeth slowly and steadily breaking down the enamel!

There are sooo many reasons not to use regular tennis balls!

Instead find an adequately sized rubber ball!

5 thoughts on “Why Tennis Balls Are Dangerous for our Dogs

  • March 29, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Great information! They can be especially dangerous to dogs who are allowed unsupervised play with toys by owners that don’t know any better. Dogs love to tear things into pieces, and small pieces of tennis ball can cause serious, life-threatening problems requiring surgery.

  • March 29, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I concur, Pan can split a tennis ball in ONE crunch. He has done so on several occasions during flyball. He also easily splits the “tough” balls. I don’t think it’s just tennis balls that are dangerous but if you have a tough chewer, don’t leave *any* toy with him unsupervised other than something designed for a tough chewer like the toughest Nylabone or marrow bone. Pan has an oral fixation and loves to chomp chomp chomp on anything round and hollow. He’s not allowed to have tennis balls unless we’re doing flyball, and they are not his reward. He has several Cuz toys but I’m going to have to monitor these as well, as I’ve noticed he has sores in his mouth from all the Cuz’in.

  • March 29, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Thank you so much Beverly for writing this article. Even tossing the tennis ball and the dog catching it can be dangerous. It is just the right size to lodge in a GSD throat and yes it does happen and dogs have died as the owners have desperately tried to remove the balls. Another plus for using a ball on a robe.

    I did not know that the glue also eroded the enamel of the dogs teeth.

    Thank you again Beverly!

  • March 29, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I remember watching Oprah Winfrey sobbing on TV recounting how her beloved Golden Retriever choked to death on a Tennis ball while she frantically tried to help, after that show I threw every tennis ball in the trash, Gavin LOVES the big Cuz balls and my JRT loves the small ones, and I had to train Gavin to only play with his big Cuz, I was so paranoid he would choke on the small ones.

  • March 29, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Our friend Dwane, a police officer with a K-9 partner named “Ki,” told us that Ki died because someone threw a BALL into his police car, and his dog swallowed it. Sadly, she died after surgery:

    In Loving Memory of
    K9 KI
    January 22, 2009

    Handler: Officer Dwane Foisy
    Pittsfield Police Department
    39 Allen St
    Pittsfield, Massachusetts 01201

    Pittsfield police mourn K-9 loss
    The Pittsfield Police Department is mourning the loss of one of its beloved members, a police canine known as Ki. “K-9 Ki was a tremendous asset to the Pittsfield Police Department and will be sorely missed,” wrote acting Chief Michael Wynn in a statement released on Monday. The police dog became ill earlier this month. After the K-9’s health began to deteriorate Ki underwent emergency surgery but suffered a post-operative infection. Ki died on Thursday. The German shepherd joined the department’s K-9 unit on Feb. 5, 2007, as Officer Dwane Foisy’s partner.
    In the past two years, Foisy and Ki completed 14 weeks of formal training in patrol work and narcotics detection and achieved national certification. While working with Foisy, Ki was deployed on more than 75 calls for service, ranging from narcotics detection to criminal apprehensions and handler protection. In one case documented last May, the K-9 and Foisy located a suspect wanted on felony and breaking and entering charges. While the officer was pat-frisking the suspect for weapons, the suspect reached into his clothing to retrieve a knife. Ki instinctively bit and held the suspect until he could be subdued and handcuffed. According to Wynn’s statement, “Ki was a member of a team that has grown from a single K-9/handler team into a widely regarded regional resource.” This is the second loss of partner for Foisy in recent years. His K-9 partner of nearly a decade, Ioyx, died in January 2007.

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