dogspet safety

The Dangers of Tennis Balls

By March 29, 2022 No Comments
Black lab carrying tennis ball on beach

Tennis balls are the epitome of a dog toy and most dogs can’t resist the rubbery chewiness and fuzzy texture. However, tennis and other chew balls are best used only under your close supervision because they can pose health risks for your dog. Let’s take a closer look at some of the major concerns around tennis balls as chew toys.


Although many catch and chew balls are labeled “indestructible,” 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 quite effortlessly. Sometimes, one-half – or possibly all – of the ball can get lodged in the back of their throats, causing a serious medical emergency, as your dog may not be able to breathe during the process. 

The ball itself is not the only choking risk. Some dogs enjoy shredding the yellow-green fuzz that covers the tennis ball, but your dog isn’t able to digest the rubber or furry cover at all. Over time, these pieces can lead to choking hazards and intestinal blockages, creating a dangerous medical emergency that may require surgery to resolve. 

Dental Damage

Even if your dog doesn’t try and eat his ball, it can still cause harm. The outer coating of a tennis ball is quite abrasive and can wear down a dog’s teeth (called “blunting”), sometimes severely. After years of this kind of wear and tear, it may become possible to see tennis-ball shaped grooves on the inside surface of your dog’s teeth. This kind of irreversible damage can cause considerable pain and make it difficult for your dog to eat, not to mention make their teeth more susceptible to breakage. If your dog has a ball in his mouth at all hours, especially if it is covered in dirt or sand, you may want to switch to a toy with a solid surface. 

Mystery Materials

Tennis balls are assembled in mass quantities on factory assembly lines all over the world. Unfortunately, there are no standards for the materials used in the manufacturing process and there are undoubtedly toxic chemicals used from the rubber ball, to the fuzzy coating, to the glue that holds it all together. Further, the balls are designed specifically for the game of tennis and are made to be cheap and effective for the sport. You may want to think twice when your dog is chewing happily on a tennis ball – there is no way of knowing what kinds of chemicals they are ingesting. 

How to Play Safely

If you want to let your dog play with a tennis ball while also reducing the risks thay they present, it is important to embrace safe practices:

  • Only use the ball for fetch and don’t leave it lying around the house for your dog to gnaw on all day. 

  • Never allow your dog to play with a tennis ball without your supervision.

  • Discard any ball that begins to show signs of wear and tear before it ultimately falls apart.

Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide whether a tennis ball is right for your dog. Think the issue through thoroughly and act in the best interest of your pet. As you can see, tennis balls do present a few risks for dogs, but if you embrace a few common-sense, safe practices, you can likely allow your dog to play fetch in a controlled, enclosed environment. 

The doctors and staff at Sierra Veterinary Hospital are available to help answer any questions or concerns you may have about tennis ball safely and can suggest fun toys for your fur baby that won’t adversely affect their dental or overall health and wellbeing. Contact us today to make an appointment and talk more about your dog’s health!