Ah yes, the infamous tennis ball. As any dog lover knows, dogs and tennis balls go together like peanut butter and jelly. Once you pick up a tennis ball, most dog’s eyes immediately become crazed with joy and they can’t contain their excitement for the life of them because finally, someone is going to throw the ball. Dogs take so much pride in catching a ball and bringing it back (well, sometimes bringing it back), we just love watching them play.

Playing fetch is great exercise, as well as a great way for you to bond with your dog, but it’s also important to keep our pups safe, and unfortunately, tennis balls pose a potential danger to our adored pooches teeth. I know firsthand from one of my dogs, that pups might think pulling at the fur on tennis balls is just the greatest thing ever. Sometimes I throw a ball and instead of bringing it back, he decides to sit down in the grass and chew the ball instead!

While many dogs are tennis ball chewers, their favorite pastime could pose a problem to the health of their teeth. Here’s my very own ball enthusiast waiting for me to throw the ball…


According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, “Dogs that chew on tennis balls or other abrasive toys (think of a tennis ball as a scouring pad), will often wear their smaller front cheek teeth (premolars), and the back aspect of the canines.” If your dog chews often on tennis balls, you could notice the tooth wear as the tips of your dog’s teeth become less sharp.

Tennis balls, albeit a cheap and fun activity for your dog, pose yet another health problem. For large dogs, their strong jaws are capable of compressing a tennis ball. The problem? If the compressed ball pops back open in the back of their throat, it’s possible for the dog’s air supply to be cut off, ultimately killing them, which was the sad fate of one of Oprah Winfrey’s dogs.

If you wouldn’t dream of taking away your dog’s beloved tennis balls and are confident in the safety of playing with them, you could allow your pup to have tennis balls. Just make sure you follow these tips to ensure your dog’s safety:

  • Throw away any tennis balls that have excessive wear, dirt, or look “fuzzy” from chewing.
  • Don’t let your dog play with tennis balls unsupervised and try to limit their time chewing.
  • If your dog chews on tennis balls excessively, make sure to check their teeth periodically.

When your dog is playing with a tennis ball, it’s also wise to only allow one ball to be played with at a time. This minimizes the risk of having your dog trying to pick up more than one ball and getting one of them lodged back in their throat. After playing fetch, be sure to put the balls away so there are no accidents when you’re not watching or are away from the house.

What to Use Instead of Tennis Balls

Thankfully, there are much safer dog toys available to use instead of tennis balls. Smooth balls still allow for a fun game of chase, but there is no danger to the dog’s teeth if they do want to bite down on the ball. So, what are some options instead of a tennis ball? 



  • Wunderball: nothing glued or fuzzy on the ball and better yet, the Wunderball is good for your dog’s teeth. Each time your dog chews or bites the ball, their teeth sink into the ball helping remove dental debris. The Wunderball also floats for all the water dogs out there.
  • KONG: like the Wunderball, the KONG ball is a smooth surface with nothing glued or fuzzy on the ball. KONG is one of the best durable balls on the market and if you want to add extra fun, you can also get a Chuck-It with a KONG ball that allows you to throw the ball much further than if by hand. Win/win.

Still, there are still risks with smooth balls (like the ball possibly getting lodged in their throats), so it’s important to not leave your dog unattended when playing. But by following a few simple guidelines to ensure playtime is safe, there is no need to deny your dog the thrill of chasing a ball, as well as the needed exercise.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and throw the ball already!

Lead image source: Bob Haarmans/Flickr