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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  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.

  12. Rubber chuck it balls are great and don’t wreck their teeth. They last for years too.
    I’ve never given tennis balls to my dogs and they have amazing teeth.
    My rescue dog has blunting on her teeth due to tennis balls

  13. Careful with lacrosse balls. We had a GSD come in with one stuck in the back of his mouth that we had to sedate to pull out and could barely get it out because it was stuck in there so hard and we couldn’t grip it. My dog has a soft rubber ball that has a hole in it so when she chews it it deflates so she doesn’t crack it and it’s soft so it won’t get stuck or hurt any teeth when catching it. I actually got it in a Barkbox, it was originally covered with cloth to look like a snowman, but the outside didn’t last long. She loves it!! Prefers it to tennis balls.

  14. I no longer play fetch with Saber using tennis balls. I prefer something less damaging, such as a large hard rubberised ball that does not peel.

  15. i have a 4 yr old rescued border collie, had perfect teeth when adopted. he’s an amazing ball catcher and i used to use tennis balls but within one and a half years his teeth were badly blunted. archie’s also a bit obsessive over itching and chewing hair, which i believe has contributed to the blunting. after $1,000 vet bill, i was advised to use all rubber toys, frisbee, balls, bones, even toweled dirt off toys after each toss. i have done this and he loves rubber toys equally as the abrasive toys. bad news: his teeth are now worse, only 6 months later. i am sickened by my dogs damaged teeth, for which i am to blame, for not noticing sooner. he is a verrry busy border collie whom i’ve taken sheep herding, agility fun, daily huge dog parks and walks, and taught brain games at home to help satisfy his strong herding drive and boundless energy. his teeth are now worn past the outer enamel. tomorrow, another visit to the doggy dentist for exam and to discuss options. i am so disgusted by pet stores that still sell tennis balls for dogs, that i want to put up warning signs outside stores and msg boards at dog parks, with pics of archie’s teeth. pet store owners and employees who are this ignorant of the possible damage by abrasion, and don’t want to hear the facts, will never again get my business. keep a close eye on your dog’s teeth; it doesn’t always take years for permanent damage to be done.

  16. Kathleen PrichardApril 19, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Once the damage is done, is there a remedy?

  17. My 8yr old cocker spaniel is under anaesthetic now have a lower canine removed. I am going to throw away all his tennis balls and find something else.

  18. My Belgian shepherds (8 and 2 years old) both have blunting. The 8 year old play Flyball which uses tennis balls – I notice too late what was happening but did eventually switch her and our younger pup to rubber balls . She will likely now need to have teeth pulled to prevent abscesses from developing. And now the 2 olds teeth are blunting. It’s Incredibly frustrating as they absolutely are obsessed with ball retrieving. any suggestions? We’ve tried stopping all ball play but they don’t want any other type of toy.

  19. I wondered what caused blunting of my Labrador’s teeth. She was obsessed with tennis balls. I wish I had known.

  20. Same here – our Staffordshire Bull Terrier absolutely loves tennis balls more than anything else and he’s a serious chewer and LOVEs to play fetch. The damage happened so quickly actually, within a year we can see the pulp in one of his lower canines. The vet said it’s fine for now but he will have to get it removed at some point. To anybody reading this – if your dogs like to chew DON’T give them tennis balls!!

  21. Omg…I just read about tennis balls blunting dogs teeth. My GWP is obsessed with balls and we have been playing with tennis balls more often than not. I and our vet noticed the blunting but we thought it was from his annoying habit of chewing rocks but now I realize it is from the tennis balls. I have been beating myself up for being so stupid, but NO ONE has ever broached this subject in my presence. Needless to say, all of his tennis balls have been confiscated and he is majorly bummed. I will be heading out to the store shortly to find replacements!
    Moral of the story is…please pass the word and perhaps we can save unknowing pet parents and their wonderful fur babies the heartache I personally am feeling now.

  22. I use a rubber Chuck it ball. My Labrador is 4 years old and plays for 2 hours a day everyday at the dog park. It is a very Sandy Park and the ball is usually always dirty. Her molars are very blunted after all of this ball play. But it’s impossible to clean the ball because when you throw it and it’s wet it collects the dirt all over again. I’m not for sure there’s any solution for blunted teeth on a dog who loves to catch repeatedly for two whole hours Non-Stop on any kind of ball.

  23. To take my 10-year-old German shepherds tennis balls away would be like putting her down. My vet told me that this would happen however she adopted this as her daily job it’s a must for her. Right now her gums seem to be sore but not infected. Is there anything I can do to relieve the pain in her gums?

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