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Are Tennis Balls Safe Dog Toys?
Are Tennis Balls Dangerous as Dog Toys?
There are a heck of a lot of pet owners who would stand up and say a resounding "NO" to that question. To be honest, until recently, I'd not thought too much about it.
While malamutes aren't typically ball dogs, my youngest malamute, Gabby at 1-1/2 years old loves tennis balls. She loved them so much that I even went out and bought other tennis ball "like" toys with the same covering on them.
I'm definitely rethinking that purchase these days. All our tennis balls and "like" toys have gone into the trash. Why?
Gabby at 1-1/2 years old is still not over her teething phase. This particular malamute of ours seems to have a propensity to eat things, however, not just chew. We weren't clued into it at first, but several months ago, started noticing that parts of things were disappearing.
Curtain bottoms have been redecorated for us as well as bedskirts, blankets and even a couple down pillows now have air holes on the ends of them. In short, we have a chewing menace on our hands.
She also has discovered that if you chew on tennis balls long enough, you can rip them open and even worse, she has decided that she can (and will) eat them very quickly.
Most people who have dogs that love tennis balls think all this hoopla about the balls being dangerous for dogs is hype. I tend to disagree. Having seen what Gabby has thrown up in terms of huge pieces of the ball (along with other pieces of my household), I'm a little inclined to think it could be a dangerous thing.
Not to gross anyone out but the remains of these things once they have passed into her stomach come out looking very horrible and are quite mangled. I'm thinking that if some of that "stuff" gets caught in her intestine, it's going to be a horrible experience and a hefty vet bill.
Dangers of Dogs and Tennis Balls
Let's look at a few of the reasons why there are reports of tennis balls being unsafe for dogs as a plaything.
- Certain dogs such as shepherds, retrievers and labradors (I would include malamutes) have a propensity to put the entire ball in their mouth--they have very large mouths but the balls are "just the right size" to become lodged in their throat
- Avid chewers will keep on chewing until they destroy the ball and then pull off pieces
- Some rabid chewers are also rabid swallowers--there is no guarantee what the rubber and felt will do once it hits their intestines--just like fabric, it can pass or it can become lodged in the throat or stomach and end up needing to be surgically removed
- There are reports that lead-based dyes are used to paint the lettering on so-called pet safe tennis balls--buyer beware
- The processed felt is said to be an abrasive on dog's teeth especially if they are enthusiastic chewers
- Tennis ball "fuzz" picks up added dirt and chunks of debris--which in turn go into your dog's mouth--which can hurt their teeth but can also be harmful ingestions depending on what the material is--think de-icing salt, etc.
- Balls can get lodged in a dog's throat--Oprah lost one of her dogs this way--and the dog may choke to death before you get the ball out
- If the ball or pieces of the ball go into the dog's stomach and intestines requiring surgical removal, depending on the age of the dog, sometimes it can be fatal--it can also lead to nasty infections
Are Tennis Balls Bad Dog Toys?
Well, reading the above you would start to think why am I giving my dog tennis balls again? Because I want a big vet bill or I want to run the risk of damaging their teeth or maybe even poisoning them a bit?
These of course are worst case scenarios and I tend to be a middle of the road person but I do think some of the warnings and concerns are very valid.
I won't say that I'll never use tennis balls again with my dogs--Gabby in particular loves tennis balls--she loves the bounce and she loves (unfortunately) the fuzz. I've switched her though to Kong balls or other rubber balls but with the caveat that I've also decided to eliminate the choking possibility by not leaving her alone with the toys.
Tips for Dogs and Tennis Balls
If you're going to use tennis balls with your dogs as a toy, make sure you think about some of these precautions--and you and your dog should go bouncing along happily:
- Remember that any dog toy can be hazardous--if it has parts on it that come off or can be eaten by your dog--supervision is key
- Once a ball starts to deteriorate, get rid of it
- Balls including tennis balls should be BIGGER than the dog's mouth--then they can't choke on them--little balls can be choked on by any breed dog very easily
- If you're playing fetch and throwing the tennis ball--know what you're throwing it into--if it's going into cinder sand or de-icing salt on a winter day---if it sticks to the ball, it goes into your dog's mouth--so do pine needles and sticks and twigs, pieces of leaves
- Look for green products when it comes to your dog's toys--any toy can become dangerous if it is made poorly, has chemicals added in the making of it, or it is too small for the dog in the first place
- Best practice is to check for recalls on dog toys and/or to buy simple, trusted, uncomplicated products for your dogs to play with--make sure it's appropriate for your dog's own temperament when it comes to chewing
- Just like leaving kids alone with toys that they can put in their mouths or disassemble, it's best to put toys up and away when you can't supervise their play--be careful about the kinds of toys or things you leave your dog alone with
- Know dog CPR and how to dislodge an object from his or her throat and always have an emergency vet number handy--just because you never know
- Even though it's so darned cute---don't train your dog to put 2 tennis balls in his mouth
- On the top 10 for things that dogs ingest, tennis balls are #5
What to Do if Your Dog Chokes on a Tennis Ball
- Get help if you can--call for someone to assist you.
- Don't panic--the dog will respond better if you remain calm.
- If the ball is stuck in the dog's mouth, gently reach inside and try to dislodge the tennis ball.
- If the ball has slipped into the throat, using your fingers, try to move the tennis ball back up into the dog's mouth, reach in and remove. CAUTION: This can cause the ball to lodge more tightly so if you aren't sure, don't do this maneuver.
- If the dog is choking and you cannot dislodge the tennis ball, perform one of the several techniques shown on the YouTube video for a choking dog. Basically they are:
- For small dogs, pick them up by their back feet--you can even give a few shakes to help dislodge the object. For larger dogs, pick up the back legs with the head hanging down and position the dog like a wheelbarrow. Tilt the dog forward.
- If that doesn't work, give the dog 4 or 5 sharp blows on the back between the shoulder blades.
- Failing the above, perform a canine Heimlich maneuver by fisting both hands gently below the dog's ribcage and doing 3-5 inward and upward thrusts with your clasped hands.
- If the dog stops breathing, perform CPR. Clear the dog's airway and make sure the object has been removed. Have someone drive you to an emergency vet while you perform this maneuver.