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Tennis balls and hidden hazards

Tennis balls are on the top of the new owners shopping list for puppy toys. Most puppies/dogs love to play with balls as it's hard for them to resist the rubbery chewiness and fuzzy texture! But without knowing it, you will be using an object that is unhealthy for your puppy/dog's dental health and is a choking hazard and should not be considered a dog toy. And here is why👇. Tennis balls are assembled in mass quantities on factory assembly lines all over the world. Unfortunately, there are no standards for the materials used in the manufacturing process and there are undoubtedly toxic chemicals used from the rubber ball, to the synthetic felt coating, to the colour and dying process, to the glue that holds it all together. Further, the balls are designed specifically for the game of tennis and are made to be cheap and effective for the sport. You may want to think twice when your puppy/dog is chewing happily on a tennis ball – there is no way of knowing what kinds of chemicals they are ingesting. 

Tennis balls are formed mainly of rubber and air injected into each rubber core, which makes the ball bounce. A layer of glue and yellow felt is added to give the ball its characteristic colour and texture. The problem is the felt that is used. Most tennis balls are made with synthetic felt which, unlike wool felt, is rough to the touch. This felt is designed to last through excessive force and friction on the tennis court. As a result, this ball has a powerful sandpaper-like effect on the dog’s teeth which causes excessive wear of the tooth structure. Do not be alarmed if your puppy/dog is playing with a tennis ball occasionally - the detrimental effects are caused by repeated use. If you let your puppy/dog play with a tennis ball daily, you'll notice how his/her teeth become shorter and blunter after prolonged use.

Another hazard is choking. Many think that tennis balls are nearly “indestructible”. HHowever, with prolonged wear and tear during play with the addition of powerful jaw muscles for adult dogs and sharp needle-like teeth of a young pup the tennis ball can split in a matter of hours if not minutes and those halves can be swallowed quite effortlessly (particularly for the large breed). At times, one-half – or possibly all – of the ball can get lodged in the back of your puppy/dog's throat, causing a serious medical emergency, as your puppy/dog may not be able to breathe during the process. 

The ball itself is not the only choking risk. Some puppies/dogs enjoy shredding the yellow-green fuzz that covers the tennis ball, but your puppy/dog isn’t able to digest the rubber or synthetic felt cover at all. These can lead once again to choking and intestinal blockages, creating a dangerous medical emergency that may require surgery to resolve. 

As an alternative look for safe-to-play toys. The ones that had been designed with dog and puppy anatomy in mind and made of safe FDA-approved materials. There are toys on the market that are designed to look like a tennis balls but they are made of natural rubber and wool felt. Yes, they will be quite a bit more pricy to buy but trust me your vet bills will be much higher if your dog/puppy will require treatment.

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