Tennis balls may just be our dogs’ favorite things after “chicken”.  Nothing brings them as much joy as chasing after tennis balls and totally obliterating them, and we’re talking destroying them beyond recognition! But are these seemingly harmless toys actually bad for dogs? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.



There’s no denying that dog toys can get pretty expensive! Enter the humble tennis ball – they usually come in a multipack and are extremely affordable and easily available. You can literally find them anywhere including the supermarket, sports stores, pet stores, and maybe even at your local tennis club. Even if your dog manages to get through a pack in no time, it’s so pocket-friendly that you wouldn’t mind replacing them often.

dog with bouncing tennis ball

They Bounce

And how! Part of the reason why dogs seem to love tennis balls is that they really bounce, making it that much more fun to chase around. Playful puppies, in particular, can be kept entertained for quite some time as they find it impossible to resist the charm of a tennis ball. Can you blame them?

They Float

If your dog is a swimmer, a tennis ball can be a fun addition to playtime as they float easily. Simply throw the ball into the water and have your pooch fetch it for you. He will tire out in no time while still having plenty of fun!


Choking Hazard

This one is a real threat to power chewers as tennis balls are not chew-proof. This means that small pieces can easily break off, get lodged at the back of their throat, and have deadly consequences. Our dogs’ powerful jaws are even capable of compressing tennis balls, and if a ball pops open at the back of their throat, it could potentially cut off their air supply. They may even ingest pieces which could lead to digestive issues and intestinal blockages that ultimately need surgery.

worn out tennis ball

Dental Issues

The external “fuzz” that our dogs seem to like so much is actually pretty abrasive, almost like sandpaper to your pooch’s teeth. This “blunting” effect is magnified as the ball gets dirtier over time and the more they chew on it, the more it wears down your dog’s enamel making them susceptible to cavities and infections.

They Could Be Toxic

According to an independent lab’s lead content tests, a single tennis ball could contain 335.7 parts of lead per million. That exceeds the amount of lead allowed in children’s toys, so yes, tennis balls could be toxic to our dogs. This is not surprising as most are made in huge factory assembly lines and don’t have to comply with any pet health standards.


Considering these pros and cons, a tennis ball while feasible and versatile could also be deadly if you leave your dog unsupervised with them. So, if you do plan on playing fetch with a tennis ball, make sure you’re always watching so that there’s no danger of them choking or ingesting pieces.

Also, don’t let your pooch play with more than one tennis ball at the same time. These videos of Labs holding many balls in their mouth at the same time may look cute but what happens if one goes too far back in their throat? You don’t want that to happen.

It’s also important to master the “Drop it” command with your furbaby so that even if an accident occurs, at least you can get him to drop the ball immediately.

If your dog is a voracious chewer and won’t stop chomping on his tennis balls, it’s perhaps best to give him a more dog-appropriate substitute that wont put him in danger.

When you’re done playing with a tennis ball, ensure that it’s kept hidden so Fido can’t get to it when you’re not paying attention. Lastly, discard any balls that have started to fall apart. You don’t want your dog to finish what he started and believe us, he will!

puppy with kong ball

What To Use Instead of A Tennis Ball

While tennis balls can be fun for your dogs as long as you are vigilant, there are some safer substitutes that will keep you at peace.

Kong Ball

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Kong Balls are made for powerful chewers and are extremely durable and puncture-resistant. Besides, they’re just as bouncy (if not more) than a tennis ball and are perfect for playing Fetch.


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Wunderball is another entertaining ball that your furbaby is sure to love for its unpredictable bouncing action. Besides it’s sturdy, cleans your dog’s teeth, and comes in four sizes and tons of colors!

West Paw Ball

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West Paw Ball’s unique shape and erratic bouncing mean more fun for our canine buddies! They are light, floatable, and come in a variety of sizes for all kinds of dogs.

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly, non-toxic option, just look into your dryer. No, really. Those wool dryer balls bounce just like tennis balls, float for a while, don’t fall apart, and can be washed easily. In fact, they’re ideal for teething puppies and senior dogs.

dog with choking hazard in mouth

What to Do if Your Dog Chokes on a Tennis Ball?

Accidents can happen even if you’re keeping a close eye on your pooch’s playtime. If the worst does happen, don’t panic but do act quickly. Open your dog’s mouth and if you can reach the tennis ball, try to grab it with your fingers and dislodge it.

If it is further down his throat, try to roll the ball up his throat from the outside and into his mouth, then try to grab it and remove it.

It does help if you know how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver for dogs so that you can act immediately. So do watch videos and educate yourself.

Once you’re sure your dog is breathing well, take him to a vet as soon as possible just in case he’s ingested any pieces and for further care.

In conclusion, while there are some hazards to letting your dog play with tennis balls, you don’t need to get rid of them immediately. They’re a great way to exercise and entertain your pooch for hours on end. Just remember not to leave them unattended and take the necessary steps to avoid any undue accidents. Stay safe!

READ NEXT: 5 Safest Tennis Balls for Dogs

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Tennis Balls Bad for Dogs

Diana currently lives and works in London, UK and she's been an animal lover and dog owner since she was a child. After graduating high school, she focused on getting her degree in English to become a writer with a focus on animals, pets and dogs.