If your dog is like most pups, he or she has a serious tennis ball habit.
And why not? These toys are cheap and have an irresistible mouthfeel for dogs due to the rubbery meets fuzzy texture. It turns out, however, that they aren’t the safest dog toy option by any means.
Major Safety Issues with Tennis Balls, According to Veterinarians:
- The Fuzzy Surface Actually Acts as Sandpaper on the Surface of Teeth – Dr. Thomas Chamberlain, a board-certified veterinary dental specialist, warns that “Tennis balls and other objects with abrasive surfaces should be avoided as these have a sandpaper-like effect on tooth structure that damages and may expose the pulp.”
- The Material & Design of a Tennis Ball Creates a Higher Risk for Throat or Intestinal Obstruction – Dr. Marty Becker writes, “The problem is that dogs have strong jaws capable of compressing a tennis ball. If that compressed ball pops open in the back of the throat, it can cut off a dog’s air supply. Most notably, one of Oprah Winfrey’s beloved dogs was a tennis ball victim, but there have been many others. The chewed bits of a tennis ball also aren’t something you want inside your dog.”
Vets aren’t the only ones who are dedicating resources to educating owners about the dangers of the tennis ball.
The AKC.org – in their article titled “Are Tennis Balls Safe For Dogs?”- remind owners that tennis balls are major choking hazards. The ball isn’t the only risk however, eating the fuzz can lead to intestinal blockages that require surgery.
Owners are also taking to the internet in droves and warning others about the hazards. A member on Reddit made a vocal plea with other owners by posting a picture post surgery of her dog (see below). The dog had chewed up and ingested tennis ball pieces, glue and fuzz. Luckily, they were able to save her life.
So the question remains – while it is clear tennis balls can be very dangerous, are they actually toxic?
Nancy Rogers was trying to answer the same question when she decided to hire an independent lab to do lead content tests (one of the harmful chemicals that can be found in tennis ball components) on her dog’s tennis balls. The results came back that one of her pup’s tennis balls contained 335.7 parts per million of lead. That amount -for reference- exceeds the amount of lead allowed in children’s toys in the U.S.. (source: TheBark.com). No bueno.
Tennis balls are made in staged assembly lines in massive factories around the world and the vast, vast majority do not have ANY standards for ingestion, consumption or pet health. They are made as a recreational ball for the sport of Tennis and are built to be inexpensive. Because of this, different types of chemicals are used for components and some have shown themselves to be absolutely toxic. The challenge is there absolutely no way to know which ones. It is absolutely a game of Russian roulette and dogs are suffering from it.
So what now? What balls should we get?
There are other options on the market to help meet your dog’s crave to chase and chew a ball. One we’d like to highlight is The BetterBall.
With the recent popularity of the BetterBall™, we wanted to address some of its most advantageous features:
- Durable yet lightweight EVA foam – A recent trend among pet toys has been the move towards EVA Foam, a dense yet lightweight material that is very durable. Being lightweight, it’s easier for a dogs to catch in their mouth and puts far less strain on the teeth and jaws compared to a heavier rubber ball or excessively springy tennis ball. It also floats in water, which makes retrievers very happy!
- Airflow hole allows for safety and even treats and chews to be stuffed inside – This bore hole through the ball was designed with 2 purposes in mind. First, to allow dental sticks, bully sticks, or treats to be stuffed inside. Second, the hole allows for better airflow and breathing, as many dogs do not get sufficient oxygen intake when running with traditional balls in their mouths.
- Easy to clean surface – Unlike tennis balls, the EVA foam surface is extremely easy to clean, extending the life of the toy.
- The BetterBall is designed for dogs and safety. The product is engineered from day one to meet the health and happiness standards that all iHeartDogs products embody.
The cool thing is that The BetterBall™ was designed specifically for a very tough customer: animal shelters and the dogs that have a tough time getting adopted out. Statistics show that dogs seen playing at shelters are adopted 70% more than dogs just sitting in a kennel. As part of the iHeartDogs Project Play™ program, for each toy you purchase from the iHeartDogs store, a BetterBall™ is donated to a shelter dogs.
No matter what you choose, it seem like now is as good a time as ever to throw out the tennis balls. In the end, it just isn’t worth the risk to our pups.