Jan 17
dog with tennis ball

Why Tennis Is Bad For Dogs

Ball play is great for many dogs. It can help with training, reduce behavioural issues and boredom, and improve happiness and fitness. But did you know that the type of ball and play surface you choose can negatively affect your pets health?

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 on 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 pooches 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, 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.

About The Author

Claire is a QLD graduate with 19 years experience as a neighbourhood Veterinarian in Australia and the UK. Animal lover and the founder of VetChat, born from a passion to help pet carers everywhere access trusted advice earlier, for healthier, happier pets. Grateful to be carer to her beautiful Red-dog.