Do Tennis Balls Wear Down Dogs’ Teeth?

03 May

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.


Posted by on May 3, 2012 in In the News


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7 responses to “Do Tennis Balls Wear Down Dogs’ Teeth?

  1. benson

    May 13, 2012 at 7:59 am

    a agree, not only will they damage teeth but they are a health risk if swallowed

  2. Lawrence

    May 17, 2012 at 4:29 am

    It’s true not to allowing dogs to chew tennis balls, other than the teeth problem, he may even swallow the ball and get suffocated.

  3. chris

    May 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    who knew tennis balls can be so bad? I’ll make sure not to give dogs tennis balls from now on…

  4. Coach Dan

    June 3, 2012 at 9:40 am

    “I’ve done some probing and asked around”

    Can you tell us any more about this? What is the evidentiary basis for the claims made in this piece? I have recently been looking for evidence about the impact that toys have on dogs’ teeth. Thx!


      June 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Veterinary dentists I’ve spoken to around the country say that dogs who chew obsessively on tennis balls made for playing tennis can wear down their teeth. Some tennis balls made for dogs are “low-fuzz” and can be less abrasive. Also, anecdotal evidence from dog owners whose dogs chew tennis balls a lot reveals teeth — especially back teeth — worn down.

  5. kate

    March 17, 2013 at 8:24 am

    I disagree regarding the use of bones. Bones are harder than the enamel of your dogs teeth. Therefore with the right amount of pressure you can cause slab fractures. The small bones uncooked like the chiken wings are one thing but the marrow and knuckle bones etc cause a different kind of damage. If you notice in the wild, they leave the bones. And a racquette ball is smaller than a tennis ball, and more likely to collapse causing airway obstruction. Did you talk with anyone re these recommendation. like a vet that specializes in dentistry, for those that read your blog

  6. kate

    March 17, 2013 at 8:26 am

    sorry need to finish sentence. For those that read your blog and take to heart the information posted it should be the best you can do. I am a cvt and been in the field or 13years.


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