Tennis Balls for Dogs - Are They Safe?

Tennis Balls for Dogs - Are They Safe?

Author WDF Staff


Dog owners don’t necessarily associate tennis balls with the sport of tennis. Many dogs love playing fetch, and many dog owners use a tennis ball to play with their dogs. However, before you use a tennis ball, make sure you know the answer to the question, “Are tennis balls safe for dogs?” The answer is - No, tennis balls are not safe for dogs. Here’s what our dog trainers wanted you to know about your dog’s playing with tennis balls.

Are tennis balls safe for dogs?

There are a few things we need to discuss when we’re talking about the safety of tennis balls for dogs. We already mentioned they are not the safest option out there. Nevertheless, many dog owners use them to play fetch with their dogs. Here are the main reasons tennis balls are considered unsafe for dogs;

Dental health threat

The first issue with tennis balls is that they present a dental health threat. The main concern is that the yellow fuzz on the tennis ball’s surface has sandpaper properties. The fine hairs are abrasive, and if the dog constantly plays with a tennis ball, chances are their enamel will get sanded down. The tennis ball will cause permanent and irreversible damage to the dog’s teeth if that happens. Dental health is crucial for humans and dogs, so you can imagine how many problems can occur from constantly playing with a tennis ball.

boston terrier with tennis balls

Choking hazard

The more immediate danger tennis balls present is choking. They might seem hard and durable, but did you know that professional tennis matches include regular ball changes? That’s because tennis balls go soft after being hit a certain amount of time. The dog’s jaws will have the same effect on tennis balls.

After your dog chased and chewed the tennis ball enough time, the ball will become a lot softer. The fine hair on the tennis ball’s surface will become loose, and the dog can swallow them. However, the bigger problem is that the tennis ball can split inside the dog’s mouth. If that happens, half of the ball can get lodged in the back of your dog’s throat, blocking the airways and causing a fatal outcome.

We cannot even tell you how many cases we witnessed of dogs choking on pieces of tennis balls. Unfortunately, some cases had the worst possible outcome. The problem is the specific shape of the ball when it splits. Even if you witness the ball splitting, you might not be able to dislodge it from your dog’s throat. Plus, some dogs will start panicking and take off.


The last, but no less important, issue we have with tennis balls is the materials used for its production. Tennis balls are made from specific materials in factories across the globe. There is a standard that requires tennis balls to be made of specific materials - for the sport. However, those sold online or in pet shops don’t have to abide by those standards. Plus, tennis balls are not edible, and materials manufacturers use are not safe for consumption.

dog with a ball

We cannot say with absolute certainty, but constantly being exposed to industrial fabrics or rubber is dangerous. Scientists and doctors continuously warn us about cancerogenic materials and how important it is to avoid them, so why would you let your dog chew on those materials? It would be best to avoid using tennis balls for playing with your dog.

Can tennis balls be used safely?

There are some cases where tennis balls can be used safely. However, safe usage of tennis balls will require your constant supervision. Your dog will have to learn commands like “Leave it” and “Drop it.” These two commands will ensure your dog won’t touch a damaged tennis ball or drop it immediately if something happens.

The second problem would be chewing. It would be best to teach your dog to bring the tennis ball without chewing on it. That would ensure the dental tear doesn’t happen. However, in many cases, this cannot be taught, and dogs will instinctively chew on the ball when they return it.

The third thing you could do is change tennis balls frequently. As soon as you notice some wear and tear on a tennis ball, take it from your dog and replace it with a new one. However, that means the yellow fuzz will be new and affect the dog’s enamel.

german shepherd with a ball

What to use instead of tennis balls?

The good news is that the pet market has a large selection of safer alternatives for our dogs, especially in the toy section. There are other toys your dog might like just as much as tennis balls, but those toys won’t present threats tennis balls present. Here are some of the dog toys you can use as an alternative;

All of these toys can be used to play fetch with your dog. In fact, toys like the Kong might be even more interesting because they will bounce unpredictably. These toys are easier on your dog’s teeth and will be a lot safer. Nevertheless, constant supervision is advised.

In conclusion

Tennis balls are one of the most popular toys for dogs. They’re relatively cheap and easy to get. The tennis ball’s color is attractive to dogs, and most dogs like to bite on things that will bend in their jaws. However, tennis balls present dangers like enamel abrasions, choking, and unknown materials. The good news is there are different, safer options of toys for your dog. You might consider looking into them.

World Dog Finder team

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