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 pose 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 scoring 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.