I recently heard a warning about not allowing dogs to chew tennis balls because the “fuzz” will sand down or wear down a dog’s teeth. I’ve done some probing and asked around, and it appears to be true. Puppies in particular are vulnerable to having their teeth worn down if they chew tennis balls. The synthetic fibers in tennis balls can act as sandpaper, wearing down dogs’ teeth in the back, where owners are unlikely to see the damage. But, a dog has to really chew a lot to start wearing down his or her teeth. It would have to be pretty obsessive.
Tennis balls can also cause bowel obstructions if your dog chews them apart. Signs of bowel obstruction are vomiting, especially after eating, diarrhea, and weakness.
Another tennis ball danger for dogs over 80 pounds is choke. Large dogs with large throats can sometimes aspirate the ball, getting it lodged in their throat. A tennis ball is 2.5″ wide, so if you have a large or giant breed dog, get a ball that’s bigger than that, or play fetch with another type of toy.
If your dog just fetches and carries a tennis ball around, it’s probably not going to harm him or her, but if there’s focused chewing (like my Lab did), it’s best to find other things to satisfy your dog’s natural desire to chew.
Here are some inexpensive alternatives:
- A tennis ball inside an athletic knee sock, tied in a knot at the top of the tennis ball. This gives the dog the same size and chewiness of a tennis ball, without the fibers.
- A raw bone. Bones are a natural part of a dog’s diet, and as long as they are not cooked, they are safe and even desirable to feed. Our Irish Setter eats a chicken wing or two at every meal and has never had a problem. Make friends with a local butcher and get some natural bones your dog will love. Many dogs want to make “progress” on what they’re chewing, which is why they bite pieces off or shred toys. Bones will satisfy both their need to chew and their need to chew “through” something.
- A marrow bone. Once the dog chews through the marrow in the middle, you can fill it with peanut butter, spray cheese, or anything you like. it provides a chew that will keep your dog busy. And its dishwasher safe.
- A racquetball. It has the same feel and similar size, but without the fuzz.
Whatever you decide, be sure your dog has something to chew on. Dog have a natural desire to chew, which should be satisfied with approved toys or treats supplied by you. Otherwise, you could come home to find your kitchen cabinets chewed, or you could start to notice aggressive, frustrated behavior from your dog.