5 min read

This Popular Toy Could Be Dangerous For Your Dog

Some dogs have reportedly gotten sick — here are some tips to keep in mind.

With their great bouncing abilities and fuzzy exteriors, tennis balls have long been at the top of the list of dogs’ favorite toys.

But one rescue group in Texas is warning pet parents to think twice before giving them to their pups.

A few months ago, staff members at the Humane Animal Rescue Project in Hempstead, Texas, purchased a multipack of Penn tennis balls to give their shelter dogs to play with.

rescue dog tennis ball danger
A rescue dog playing with a tennis ball | Facebook/Humane Animal Rescue Project

Over the course of a few months, four dogs in their care developed swollen tongues and white ulcerations on their mouths — and all had trouble drinking and breathing. Some of them had such pain in their mouths and throats that they needed to be put on IVs to make sure they’d stay hydrated.

After multiple vet visits due to dogs experiencing the same intense reactions, the team realized the one common denominator: all the dogs had been chewing and playing with the same Penn tennis balls.

“Several vets have described the ulcers as ‘chemical burns,’” the rescue wrote on its Facebook page after the scare. “These tennis balls may be causing serious injury to your dogs … We can’t be the only ones with this issue.”

rescue dog danger tennis ball reaction
One of the dogs' mouths after playing with a ball | Facebook/Humane Animal Rescue Project

The rescue first noticed the problem when a 6-year-old border collie named Sydney developed a horribly swollen tongue and was in so much pain that she wouldn’t stop howling. They didn’t think of the possible connection then, but she had been playing with a tennis ball fresh out of the can right before the reaction.

Luckily, all the dogs affected have recovered.

One commenter on the Facebook post said she had seen the same reaction in her dogs, and another involved in rescue noted that they always wash tennis balls before giving them to their shelter residents.

rescue dog tennis ball
Sydney, the first dog to have a reaction after playing with a tennis ball at the shelter | Facebook/Humane Animal Rescue Project

The rescue firmly believes the dogs’ ailments originated from chewing and licking on the Penn tennis balls, but the company that makes them said it hadn’t heard of any similar reactions. And Curtis Krueger, media relations specialist for BluePearl Veterinary Partners, said this is a phenomenon the group’s veterinary experts have not seen.

It’s a good reminder that these tennis balls are not specifically marketed as pet-safe, meaning there are a few safety tips to keep in mind if you choose to give them to your pets.

The glue that holds the fuzz onto the balls, and the fuzz itself, can be very damaging to a dog’s teeth due to its abrasiveness. If a dog is a heavy chewer, ensure they aren’t ripping off and eating the fuzz. This could potentially cause stomach upset or blockages if they consume it. Additionally, in large dogs, the balls can become a choking hazard if a dog carries more than one in his mouth at a time.

While many dogs use these balls with no issue, it’s always a good idea to purchase pet-safe tennis balls from pet suppliers to make extra sure your furry family member stays safe — and that their good fun doesn’t have to end in an emergency vet visit.