Are Tennis Balls Bad for Dogs?

When Sarah took Felix, her seven-year-old boxer, to the veterinarian because he had stopped eating, she wasn’t prepared for the depth of the bad news. After two rounds of X-Rays costing $500 each, his veterinarian determined Felix had a four-inch tear in his intestine just below the stomach.

Felix would require surgery, and it would be expensive—nearly $10,000 all totaled. After three days, Felix was ready to go home, but he would have weeks of recovery. The culprit, it turns out, was a tennis ball.

What Happens When a Dog Chews Tennis Balls?

Felix had chewed apart a ball and swallowed the pieces, which was a common pastime. After consuming dozens of tennis balls in the past, without any side effects, the worst happened. Made of a semi-hard rubber, one jagged piece tore through the intestine as it passed from the stomach. Though the damage could have been much worse and it did not become lodged, it was a harrowing experience for both Felix and Sarah.

Fortunately, Sarah’s veterinarian had just returned from a professional conference at which he attended a two-hour presentation entirely on the dangers of tennis balls. Had he not recently learned of the possibilities, he might not have recognized the bit of rubber he removed—and not been able to educate Sarah on the hazards.

Are Tennis Balls Bad for Dogs Teeth?

As if major surgery weren’t enough, the veterinarian needed to see Felix in the coming months to remove eight teeth showing severe signs of decay. Felix was receiving annual teeth cleanings; how was it possible his teeth were in such awful condition?

The answer again, a tennis ball.

The veterinarian explained tennis ball fuzz collects particles of sand and dirt. Trapped in the fuzz, when a dog chews on the ball, these tiny particles act as an abrasive that, over time, wears away the natural, protective enamel of their teeth. Once the enamel is damaged, caught food causes tooth decay. Depending upon the dog, this decay can happen quickly, as in Felix’s case, or erode slowly over several years. It’s one reason annual teeth cleanings and dental chews are so important.

To compound the mounting dangers, dogs can swallow the fuzz and develop gastrointestinal distress—especially in breeds such boxers that often suffer from a canine form of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.

What Balls are Safe for Dogs?

For most dogs, any ball will do, and fortunately, there is a wide variety from which to choose. Some balls are solid or hollow hard rubber. Others are softer composite materials without the fuzz. Softer balls without fuzz are the ideal replacements for dangerous tennis balls.

Some hollow balls have a large hole used for hiding treats, but an increasing number of pet owners make emergency trips to the veterinarian after their dog’s tongue becomes swollen and lodged in the hole. When choosing a replacement for tennis balls, pet owners would be wise to consider this risk.

Other Hazards in Dog Toys

Lead is dangerous to pets just as it is to humans. Inhaling or ingesting this metal can lead to lead toxicity and result in anemia, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and other symptoms also common to other ailments, including behavior changes.

Two laboratories based in the United States conducted studies of pet toys purchased in American stores, Trace Laboratories and ExperTox Analytical Laboratories both found lead and other toxic heavy metals. They also found that merely licking the toy was enough to transfer the toxins.

Whether your dog likes balls or any other type of toy, wash them often and check for sharp edges or cracks that could scratch or allow pieces to break off and pose a swallowing risk. Exercise caution and replace old toys as soon as signs of deterioration are present.

Pet Insurance For Your Dog

For most pet owners, their dogs or cat are members of the family. Their pet’s health and well-being are as important to them as their children’s health and well-being. Like Sarah, they may spend thousands of dollars for surgeries or tens of thousands of dollars for cancer treatments or other life-saving measures. Pet insurance works for pets like health insurance for humans. Monthly premiums make sure owners can provide their pets with the best possible care without concerns for debt-inducing bills.

How To Check If Your Dog’s Toys Are Safe

Tennis balls pose many dangers to dogs, but there are many safer alternatives. When purchasing toys and bedding for your pet, give the process as much consideration as you would for kids of the two-legged variety. Check labels for indication of harmful materials; test to be sure they can withstand tugging, chewing, and pulling, and replace as needed.

Our pets aren’t able to do these things for themselves, so it’s up to caring families to look out for them and do everything possible to care for their family members. Even young dogs can have accidents or become harmed by unforeseen dangers. Investing in pet insurance enables pet owners to provide the best care level so the entire family can rest easy.

Article written by Author: Elsa Smith

What Balls Are Safe for Dogs

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