Written by Melissa Reuter-Wagoner, RVT

Many of our canine companions would agree that a tennis ball is one of the most exciting toys they own. The sight of a tennis ball usually leads to joyful tail wagging and a game of fetch. Unfortunately, this toy can also lead to excessive wearing of a dog ™s teeth. The fibers that cover a tennis ball are surprisingly abrasive and meant to withstand the hard surface of a tennis court. This abrasiveness can actually wear through the enamel and dentin of teeth, shortening the crown and sometimes exposing the internal root canal system. However, playing fetch with your dog is a fantastic way to give them exercise and keep them fit.

A tip to keep your dog ™s teeth from being damaged is to use a ball other than a tennis ball. There are medium weight rubber balls sold at pet supply stores that can serve just as well for a game of fetch, but do not have a fibrous covering. Rubber balls do not sand down tooth enamel because their surface is much more slippery. You should also keep in mind that smaller balls and pieces of chewed up balls (including tennis balls) are commonly removed from dogs surgically. Be sure that the balls you use are too large to be swallowed by your largest dog, and too tough to be chewed into pieces by your strongest dog.

For dogs that just love their tennis ball, a good compromise is to only use the ball for fetching and not allow free access to it. This means put the ball away in between games and don ™t allow your dog to gnaw on it. This will help to minimize damage to their teeth. In between games, offer your dog a safe rubber chew toy to keep them entertained!