Dog Ate A Tennis Ball

Tennis balls are the quintessential modern dog toy. My dog can sniff them out of roadside ditches, and nothing gives her as much joy as chasing after them in a wide-open field. However, tennis balls are a special toy in our household, reserved for supervised playtime.

This is because, while they are undeniably one of the most beloved dog toys out there, tennis balls can pose health risks for dogs.

My dog loves chomping on tennis balls until they pop. Dogs with powerful jaws like hers can easily break tennis balls in their mouths. This can lead to serious choking hazards. Sometimes, one-half of the tennis ball can get lodged in the back of their throats, blocking the airway. If this seems far-fetched, you may have heard that Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Retriever, Gracie, choked to death on a plastic ball.

The ball itself is not the only choking risk. Some dogs enjoy shredding the yellow-green fuzz that surrounds the tennis ball. Eating this fuzz can lead to choking hazards and intestinal blockages that could require surgery.

That green fuzz might seem soft, but tennis balls are designed to withstand tennis courts and rackets. Dr. Thomas Chamberlain, a board-certified veterinary dental specialist, warns that the fuzz is actually quite abrasive, and accumulated dirt and sand increases the abrasive quality of the ball. As your dog chomps on a tennis ball, the fuzz acts like sandpaper, gradually wearing down her teeth in a process called “blunting.” This can eventually lead to dental problems such as exposed tooth pulp and difficulty chewing.

Can Eating A Tennis Ball Harm My Dog?

Dog Ate A Tennis Ball

Tennis balls are made of synthetic materials like rubber and plastic, and the body cannot digest these. This means that if they are swallowed and enter the gut, they will have to come back out whole. They will come back out either via the mouth or at the other end!

Once the tennis ball or any part of it has entered the gut, it is known as a foreign body or foreign object. It then poses a risk of bowel obstruction. The gut is long and often narrow. This makes it very easy for them to get blocked, and this is the main risk for dogs. Bowel obstructions are very serious and can be life-threatening.

Don’t panic, though! There are plenty of actions veterinarians can take to help your dog. And this is true, even if the whole ball is swallowed. But you must seek help at the earliest opportunity for the best outcome.

On a side note, tennis balls are also thought to wear down a dog’s teeth as they chew on them due to the roughness of the fuzzy surface. If your pup likes to chew, it is best to avoid tennis balls and seek out purpose-designed dog toys that will not damage the teeth.

Tennis balls should also be avoided in older dogs. The act of throwing a ball and playing fetch can put a lot of pressure on joints. Older dogs are potentially at risk of arthritis in their legs and the twists, turns, and high speed of fetch can be quite damaging on top of this. Steady and controlled exercise is best and can still provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation.

Tennis balls and other smaller balls can also pose a choking hazard to dogs. Again, this can be a veterinary emergency as the ball may block the airway. You’ll need to make sure you match the ball to your dog’s size so it’s not too small for them to swallow.

My Dog Ate a Tennis Ball. What Should I Do?

Dog Ate A Tennis Ball

If your pup ate parts of their favorite tennis ball, there might not be any harm. This all depends on what was swallowed. Even still, there are a few steps you’ll want to take. Follow the steps below to ensure Fido has his best chance of having no impact as a result of their chewing habits.

Make sure you remove any remaining bits of the ball, or any further balls, well away from your dog. This is to ensure that no other foreign objects get swallowed while you have your back turned! If it is safe to do so, try and get any other bits of material or ball out of their mouth.

Try and work out roughly what was eaten and when. This is important, especially depending on the size of your pet. Small dogs that have eaten quite a bit of rubber may be more at risk of obstruction, simply because their intestines are smaller than a larger dog.

Make contact with your local veterinary clinic straight away for further advice. They will ask about what has happened, any background information you have, and any symptoms of distress that may be showing. Based on this, they will be able to provide tailored professional advice for you and your pup.

Follow the instructions of the veterinary clinic. They will usually recommend a visit and a check over but the advice may be given over the phone in some circumstances. It is best to take their advice seriously as it will be in the best interests of you and your canine companion.

Are Tennis Balls Toxic to Dogs?

Tennis balls are made by gluing two halves of molded rubber together, filling the ball with air, before dipping it into glue and attaching the abrasive fuzz.

There are strict regulations for tennis ball materials since they are for humans use in the sport and are therefore not toxic.

However, there are no government standards for pet toys, and many of these are made outside of the US so could contain harmful substances.

A study in 2009 discovered that many tennis balls made for dogs had traces of lead, with other pet products containing one or more toxic chemicals.

It’s up to owners to check the label of pet toys to ensure they contain no harmful substances for their dogs.


What do you do if your dog eats a ball?

Foreign Body

Tennis balls are made of synthetic materials like rubber and plastic, and the body cannot digest these. This means that if they are swallowed and enter the gut, they will have to come back out whole. They will come back out either via the mouth or at the other end!

Can a tennis ball hurt a dog?

If you know your dog swallowed an object, call your veterinarian immediately and take your dog to the vet’s office as soon as possible. The doctor may be able to induce vomiting or retrieve the object from the stomach before serious problems set in.

Can a dog pass a ball?

Choking Hazard

The tennis ball can split apart in the back of the throat, blocking your dog’s airway. This can be fatal for your dog. The tennis ball can also break down into pieces as the dog chews, which creates a high risk that your dog will ingest those pieces.