DOGS AND TENNIS BALLS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ) VERSION
This file contains information about the safety
of tennis balls for dogs. Although tennis ball is one of the
most common dog toys, there has not been very much information
published about it. I have recently gathered information about
dogs and tennis balls because of concerns about the safety
of tennis balls used as dog toys, and decided to edited the
information I have into this FAQ.
CHANGES SINCE VERSION 1.1
- Added information regarding Wilson Sporting
Goods tennis balls
CHANGES SINCE VERSION 1.0
- New information about how tennis balls
may wear down teeth.
- More information on washing tennis balls.
Tony Lindgren, you may distribute this document
freely, but if you publish it, let me know. This document
is provided "as is" -no warranty, express or implied,
I'm personally interested in the subject because
of my dog and my involvement in a company making patent pending
dog activating toys called TreatBall. (There is more info
on TreatBall at http://www.treatball.com).
Although this may slightly affect my opinion :), I think I
have managed to gather information that could be useful to
dogs and dog owners in general.
If you have any comments about this FAQ, or
you have information that is missing from this FAQ, please
let me know. Please send me email concerning this FAQ to:
Thanks for everybody who has contributed to
this FAQ, especially Marika Lehtosalo, Cindy Tittle Moore,
Keith Yockey and Chris Waller.
Marika Lehtosalo is hosting our TreatBall
Cindy Tittle Moore is hosting the official
rec.pets.dogs FAQ Homepage at:
Keith Yockey is hosting a web site with information
about Flyball at:
Chris Waller is hosting the Predator Defense
Institute website at:
HOW TO GET THIS FAQ
This FAQ, and later revisions to it, will
be posted in the following usenet newsgroups:
This FAQ is also available at our web site
Q: DO TENNIS BALLS CONTAIN HARMFUL CHEMICALS?
Q: DO TENNIS BALLS NEED TO BE WASHED BEFORE GIVING THEM TO
Q: HOW DO I WASH THE TENNIS BALLS?
Q: WHAT IF MY DOG EATS A TENNIS BALL?
Q: DOES CHEWING ON TENNIS BALLS WEAR TEETH?
Q: WHAT MAKES SOME TENNIS BALLS BETTER THAN OTHERS?
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. Q: DO TENNIS BALLS CONTAIN
A: According to Wilson Sporting Goods and
Penn Racquet Sports Company, their tennis balls are made of
rubber and latex, and the felt covering the ball consists
of wool and nylon. The dyes used to color the felt are non-toxic.
I currently do not have information from other manufacturers,
so I cannot say anything about the safety of their balls.
If you come across such information, please let me know. Latex
is probably the most harmful of these materials, since some
dogs could be allergic to it. Latex is generally used in rubber
gloves, for example, and some humans are allergic to it too.
2. Q: DO TENNIS BALLS NEED
TO BE WASHED BEFORE GIVING THEM TO A DOG?
A: This probably does not make a big difference,
since the balls will get dirty when rolling on floor and ground.
If you are worried about chemicals, use non-toxic tennis balls
and see question 1. For information about washing tennis balls,
see question 3.
3. Q: HOW DO I WASH THE TENNIS
A: Rinsing the tennis balls occasionally with
water is a good idea. You can also use dish washing detergent
to wash the ball. Remember to rinse well, though. Tennis balls
can even be washed in a washing machine! Here's a quote from
Keith Yockey, who competes in flyball with his BC: "I
do wash my balls in the washing machine, and the spin dry
cycle is plenty good. After all, a slobbery covered ball dries
as quick as a spin dried one, and I have had no problems in
this area." So, looks like a dryer cycle is not required.
4. Q: WHAT IF MY DOG EATS
A TENNIS BALL?
A: Be careful with what your dog eats, since
dogs eat anything! Dogs can eat all kinds of things, such
as socks and shoes. In the worst case these could block your
dog's digestion and require surgery! If your dog is big enough
to chew the ball into pieces, your dog may well eat some of
the pieces. Also, if your dog is large, he may try to swallow
the ball whole, which could choke your dog.
I have been trying to figure out a rule of
thumb of the dangers of a tennis balls for a dog, and this
is the best I have come up with so far: If your dog is capable
of opening the mouth wide enough to be able to chew a tennis
ball with molars, then there may be a risk of your dog chewing
the tennis ball apart and eating the pieces or even trying
to swallow the ball whole. If your dog is not able to chew
the ball with molars, then a tennis ball should be quite safe,
since your dog can only wear the ball out by pulling the felt
off the ball.
If your dog chokes on something that is in
the back of the mouth, you can try to pull the object out
the mouth and possibly use a tool such as a spoon. Be careful
that the dog does not bite you at this point, since he may
panic. If your dog chokes on something in the throat, you
can use Heimlich's (A special squeeze around the dog to pop
the object out) or for a smaller dog to lift the dog by rear
legs and swing the dog with head down. However, I'm not a
specialist in this area; if you have a dog you should read
books and FAQs about animal first aid. So, observe your dog
first to see what happens to a tennis ball before you leave
your dog alone with a tennis ball. In general, do not let
your dog eat anything that could block your dog's digestion
or choke him!
5. Q: DOES CHEWING ON TENNIS
BALLS WEAR TEETH?
A: Reportedly the tennis balls may wear down
teeth, and washing the balls would solve the problem.
I had hard time believing this theory at first
based on my experience as a tennis player. Most of my experience
with tennis balls comes from when I was playing lots of tennis
and stringing tennis racquets. When playing tennis on a hard
court, the felt on tennis balls tends to wear out after couple
hours of playing. The hair on the balls comes so much shorter
that you can actually notice a difference in the ball diameter
when comparing to new balls. Also, during the play typically
at least three balls are used, and they all wear down. This
makes me think that tennis balls are not very abrasive.
Also, the strings on a tennis racquet tend
to wear down after about 10-100 hours of play depending on
the players skills and spin used on the ball. Racquet strings
mainly wear down because of the friction between crossing
strings when they move relative to each other. I have not
noticed really any wear on the strings from the balls, except
when playing on red clay, which leads me to think of the following
When playing tennis on a red clay, sand gets
deposited in the felt of the ball. The sand deposited in the
felt acts as abrasive powder, and wears down the racquet strings.
In the same way, if tennis balls are used outdoors for dogs,
sand will get deposited in the felt of the tennis ball. The
sand can then act as abrasive powder if the dog chews on the
ball, which could wear down the teeth. For example, Flyball
is mainly played outdoors, and Cris Waller, who has experience
in Flyball dogs, responded that many Flyball dogs he has seen
have worn teeth where the tennis ball is held.
So according to this suggested theory, it
is not the tennis ball that is abrasive, it is the sand deposited
in the felt. If so, it means that washing the tennis balls
on regular basis is very important. Please see question 3
for information about washing tennis balls. If anybody has
further information on this subject, please let me know.
6. Q: WHAT MAKES SOME TENNIS
BALLS BETTER THAN OTHERS?
A: There are differences among various tennis
balls. Be careful that you give your dog only good quality
tennis balls! Basically there are two things that define how
good a tennis ball is from a dog's point of view. These requirements
are not necessarily the same as the requirements from a tennis
player's point of view. Firstly, the felt has to be attached
to the ball so that a dog cannot pull it off and eat it. This
problem occurs a lot in cheaper tennis balls. Secondly, the
ball has to be made of thick rubber, so a dog cannot chew
it apart that easily. According to my personal studies, Wilson
Championship and Advantage tennisballs, and Penn's Championship
and SpinTrak tennis balls have a good quality felt attached
to them which does not peel off easily, and the balls are
made of thicker rubber than most other balls making them more
durable. Probably the most durable tennis balls available
are Wilson Advantage tennis balls, which are non-pressurized
training balls. These balls have a lot thicker rubber layer
than regular tennis balls. However, these balls are also a
bit more expensive than regular tennis balls.