Why tennis is bad for dogs

Posted by Dr Claire Jenkins on Jan 17, 2016 9:28:30 PM
Dr Claire Jenkins

Playing with your dog and the use of toys such as balls are essential for their well being. It helps with training, reduces behavioural issues or just sadness associated with boredom, and improves your own happiness and fitness together with your fur kid’s. Whilst nothing in life is risk free, there are safer options for play time, and activities and toys that are best avoided. In comes tennis.

Tennis balls are a bad choice of toy for your fur mate. Here’s why:

  • They can literally cause your dogs teeth to wear down. Especially when they are allowed to have unlimited, unsupervised chew time. This can expose the central part of the tooth that is normally protected and predisposes to your pup to painful tooth root infections.
  • How do they do this? The fuzz on the outside of the ball is very abrasive (even on its own, but especially when it picks up sand and grit) and it seems to have an effect like sandpaper on the teeth as they chew at it.
  • They can cause an intestinal obstruction. Dog’s love chewing at tennis balls and they all too easily start to break into pieces, if swallowed they can cause a blockage in the gut.
  • Depending on the size of your dog, namely large breed dogs, they are also a potential choking hazard.

Tennis courts are a potentially hazardous choice of play surface and are responsible for many paw pad injuries for dogs. Here’s why:

  • They are mostly abrasive surfaces. Hard courts are made with materials such as concrete and asphalt, and synthetic grass courts have a concrete or asphalt base covered with a synthetic grass carpet with sand infill.
  • It’s often a slippery and unpredictable surface to move on so paws slide over the top (very common with synthetic grass due to the sandy infill)
  • The surface can get really hot, a well used rule of thumb is that if it’s too hot for the back of your hand to touch for 5 seconds, it’s too hot for your mate to walk on.

Running and playing on such a surface risks cracks, cuts or tears of the paw pad. This exposes the underlying sensitive tissue making for a painful injury that, due to the poor blood supply in the pad tissue and constant compression of the pad injury due to weight bearing, even a simple pad injury can take weeks to heal.

So if you love your dogs choppers, and don’t fancy the costs of a root canal or tooth extraction, if you would rather be active with your dog as opposed to having them confined for weeks whilst their paw pads are healing or they recovering from abdominal surgery, then put the tennis balls away!

Continue the play but choose a safer ball, a size that is appropriate for your dog, that is smooth such as rubber (kongs can be a good choice), and if it starts to break, throw it out straight away. Check the temperature of the surface you’re playing on and choose one that’s not abrasive. Real grass is always a winner.

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Topics: Behaviour, tennis ball, dogs