If Your Dog Is Playing With This, Take it Away Immediately

Experts warn against letting your precious pup play with this popular toy.

Giving your dog their favorite toy brings you both joy—you get rewarded with a happy pup, and at least a few minutes of distraction. But not all toys are created equal, and experts warn that one of the most popular dog toys could pose a significant risk to your dog's health for some alarming reasons. If you've been letting your pooch chew on this canine standby, you should stop immediately. Read on to find out which toy you'll have to confiscate, and for more potential dangers, If Your Dog Is Doing This, It Could Be a Sign of COVID, New Study Says.

Tennis balls pose a choking hazard for dogs.

Dog with tennis ball
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It may seem unlikely that your dog could split a tennis ball in half and end up choking on it, but experts warn that this is possible—especially for larger dogs with powerful jaws. The American Kennel Club (AKC) says that tennis balls can be serious choking hazards. "One-half of the tennis ball can get lodged in the back of their throats, blocking the airway," the AKC notes.

But the ball itself isn't the only choking hazard. Some dogs also end up shredding the fuzz on tennis balls, and that can cause choking as well—not to mention intestinal blockages, which could require surgery. And if you're looking for a pet to add to your home, check out The 21 Most Low-Maintenance Pets You Can Own.

Chewing on a tennis ball can be harmful to dogs for other reasons.

Dog with tennis ball
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Veterinarian Georgina Ushi, DVM, a writer for We Love Doodles, notes that the chemicals present in tennis balls could pose a risk if swallowed. "Tennis balls are made to endure entire tennis games and not to be chewed on, which means their creation process could … contain chemicals or other components that could represent a risk to your dog if ingested," she says.

And that's not all. Veterinary dental specialist Thomas Chamberlain, DVM, told the AKC that the fuzz on tennis balls is abrasive. Compounded with the dirt and sand that can accumulate as your dog plays with the ball, that fuzz can be grating on your pup's teeth. "As your dog chomps on a tennis ball, the fuzz acts like sandpaper, gradually wearing down her teeth in a process called 'blunting,'" the AKC explains. "This can eventually lead to dental problems such as exposed tooth pulp and difficulty chewing." And for intel on the presidential pooches, This Is the One Place in the White House the First Dogs Aren't Allowed.

Tennis balls are OK to play fetch with.

Dog with tennis ball
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Veterinarian Rachel Barrack, DVM, of Animal Acupuncture says that while you shouldn't leave your dog unattended with a tennis ball, you can safely use the ball to play fetch with. That's great news for you and for your pup, since tennis balls are a fan favorite among dogs. Yellow is one of the only two colors dogs can see, which might explain why they're so drawn to these balls in particular. "Their bouncy erratic movements mimic rodents in the wild, which canines used to prey on," says Maureen Murithi, DVM, team veterinarian at SpiritDog Training. "Tennis balls instinctively activate their prey drive."

Joanna Woodnutt, BVM, head veterinarian at Breed Advisor, says that if you're nervous to let your dog play with a tennis ball, you can swap it for a safer alternative that's similar in size. "Rubber balls specially made for dogs are generally a good option, but you can also get canine tennis balls that are less likely to break and are less abrasive," she suggests. And for more useful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

There are other things your dog shouldn't chew on.

Dog with a stick
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Tennis balls aren't the only things you shouldn't let your beloved pet chew on. "Games like fetch are fun for everyone involved, but watch what you use," Barrack warns. "Dead branches and sticks are a common choice, but they can splinter and cause irritations and obstructions if ingested." She also advises against bones because they can result in gastrointestinal issues or obstruction. "Always avoid toys with little pieces, and if your dog likes to shred soft toys, they should not be given access to them," Barrack adds.

Hale Veterinary Clinic advocates following the "kneecap rule": "If you would not want me to hit you in the kneecap with it, do not let your dog chew on it." Allowing your dog to chew on something too hard can lead to painful tooth damage. And for a star's dog you need to see, Jennifer Aniston's Adorable New Rescue Puppy Has the Classiest Name.

Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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