Tennis balls and your dog’s teeth

Tennis balls are abrasive to teeth

Lots of dogs love to play with tennis balls and, while most pet guardians are aware of the potential choking hazard tennis balls pose to large dogs, tennis balls also present another more subtle danger to pets. The outer covering of a tennis ball is designed to be tough to withstand hard use on a tennis court, and is very abrasive. As dirt and grit become embedded into a tennis ball over time, the ball becomes even more abrasive. Some dogs are excessive chewers and tend to chew on tennis balls for long periods, resulting in gradual wear to the dog’s teeth from repeated contact with the tennis ball covering. This gradual wearing down of the tooth enamel is referred to as “blunting.”

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.” Veterinary opinions vary about the degree of danger tennis balls pose to a dog’s dental health. If your dog is a serious tennis-ball chewer, you may notice the tooth wear as the tips of your dog’s teeth become less sharp and more blunted over time. Some safety tips for tennis ball play with your dog:

  • Discard tennis balls with that have excessive wear, embedded dirt, or that look “fuzzy.”
  • Don’t let your dog play with tennis balls unsupervised, and don’t allow prolonged chewing of tennis balls.
  • Consider replacing tennis balls with safer dog toys such as a smooth ball or Kong toy.

Tennis balls are fun, plentiful and inexpensive toys. If your dog isn’t a hard-core chewer, he or she will probably never have the problem of excessive tooth wear, and of course, teeth do tend to naturally wear down over time anyway. If you have a dedicated chewer, be sure to periodically monitor your dog’s teeth for signs of wear.

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11 Comments

  1. This is not necessarily true, my dogs have chewed tennis balls for their life one is 5 years old and one is 7 months I have their teeth checked at their annuals visits and there is nothing wrong with their teeth. Their teeth have not been worn down nor has the enamel been worn off of their teeth. If anything they have keep their teeth clean from tartar, because my vet asks me is I brush their teeth. I do not brush their teeth and told her they chew on tennis balls and she said whatever I am going to keep doing it. Because their teeth are strong and clean.

  2. Anna. you don’t know what your talking about.

  3. My three year old GSP severely damaged her teeth with tennis balls.

  4. Same with my 3 year old GSP!! Have you found any alternatives to tennis balls?

  5. I am starting to notice wear on the lower canines of my 17 month old GSP!! Maybe that breed is prone to blunting? Anyhow I feel awful I have let him chew excessively on his tennis balls. He is obsessed with tennis balls and nothing else comes close to replacing them. However I am getting rid of all tennis balls in my house today.

  6. Unkown to me, Angus was swallowing the pieces which grew onto the lining of his stomach. Be warned.

  7. We feel that our Nero Ball is the best alternative to those abrasive tennis balls. Natural rubber blend that is strong enough to be used by police K-9 and Military working dogs worldwide.

  8. I have found that a lacrosse ball works fine, in lieu of a tennis ball. They are hard rubber, and my GSD does not chew it up. They bounce forever on hard surfaces, and provides my shepherd with lots of needed exercise…fast!!!

  9. My 5 year old Boston x Yorkie has eroded his front teeth that we just noticed. Is there anything we can do for his teeth (obviously we are not letting him have the tennis balls anymore).

  10. I have a 3 year old helper who chases and catches tennis balls daily thrown by a ball thrower. I have notice blunting on biotin canines. Also I met a border collie recently and noticed major wear on teeth and when I asked the owner said it was from tennis balls.

  11. I had three dogs–one who chewed tennis balls for 13 years, one who chewed for 6 years, and one who never chewed them–and their teeth corresponded exactly to the degree of their chewing. The 13-year-old’s teeth were worn down to nubs, while the never-chewer had perfect teeth when he died. I found that street hockey balls make a good substitute–they are the same size as tennis balls but aren’t covered with any fabric.

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