My Dog Ate a Tennis Ball and Seems Fine – What Should I Do?

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Key Takeaways:

  • When dogs eat a tennis ball, the pieces can cause your dog to choke, irritate the digestive tract, or create an obstruction.
  • Rubber and fuzz from tennis balls are not digestible, so the pieces can collect and become dangerous for your dog.
  • It’s best to only allow dogs to have tennis balls when you can supervise them.

Dogs love toys, and they love to chew on different items. Sometimes, that can be a dangerous combination. 

When a pooch has a favorite tennis ball, sooner or later, the materials will start to break down. Your dog may start gnawing on the toy if you leave him alone with it. If he swallows some of the fuzz, or pieces of the ball, your pooch can become very sick.

In this article, we’ll look at why tennis balls can be dangerous for dogs and the symptoms of trouble if your dog eats pieces of or a whole tennis ball. I’ll explain what you should do when your dog swallows a chunk of a tennis ball and how your veterinarian will treat your dog.

Let’s dive in.

How Much Of a Tennis Ball Is Dangerous to Dogs?

For some larger dogs, swallowing a few small pieces of a tennis ball or some of the fuzzy cover will not be a problem. However, it only takes one piece if it’s large enough or gets stuck in the wrong place. When your dog ingests a chunk or several pieces of rubber from the toy, you should be concerned. Either way, contact your vet and let him know what happened.

The greatest risks to dogs that eat a tennis ball are choking or obstruction. However, there are a few other ways tennis balls can potentially harm your pooch. If your dog chews incessantly on the outer cover of a tennis ball, it can act like sandpaper and wear down the enamel on Fido’s teeth. Additionally, the materials in dog tennis balls aren’t highly regulated. Some balls may include toxic materials like lead.

Some larger dogs may be fine after swallowing a few small pieces of a tennis ball. The wrong size or piece of a tennis ball can get lodged in the throat or digestive tract and cause trouble. You should always call your vet if your dog eats any part of a tennis ball.

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate a Tennis Ball?

If your dog ate part or all of a tennis ball you should remove all remaining balls or pieces of rubber and fuzz. Then contact your vet and let them know what happened. Depending on the amount of tennis ball, the size of the pieces your dog ate, and his symptoms your vet may have you bring Fido to the clinic, induce vomiting, or observe him at home for signs that your dog has an obstruction or other problems.

If your dog eats all or part of a tennis ball, remove any remaining pieces and call your vet. The doctor may recommend a physical examination, at-home observation, or other actions depending on how much material your dog swallowed and any symptoms you report.

What You Should Do Immediately If You Suspect Your Dog Has Eaten Pieces of a Tennis Ball

If you walk into the room and discover your dog has been chewing on an old tennis ball there are some things you can do right away.

  • Remove any remaining pieces of the tennis ball and any other balls from the area
  • Assess the situation and try to determine how much of the tennis ball your dog swallowed
  • Check your dog’s mouth and remove any visible pieces 
  • Call your veterinarian and report any symptoms you notice
  • Follow your vet’s instructions

As soon as you discover your dog has eaten some tennis ball, you should assess the situation and remove any remaining pieces of the ball from the area. Then check your dog’s mouth for pieces and call your veterinarian to let him know what happened. 

What if My Dog Ate a Lot of Tennis Ball Pieces But Is Acting Normal?

If your dog swallowed lots of tennis ball pieces or a whole ball, call your vet. It doesn’t matter whether he’s acting normal or not. The tennis ball may have made it safely down your pup’s throat and into his stomach, but it can still cause trouble. However, you may not see signs immediately after your dog swallows the rubber.

The stomach can’t ingest tennis ball materials, so it either lingers in the stomach or continues into the intestines. If pieces become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract, the rubber can cause an obstruction. It may also irritate the stomach lining and potentially cause an abdominal infection. Either of these conditions can be dangerous for your pooch and require veterinary care.

Dogs that eat a lot of tennis ball material should see a vet whether or not they’re acting normally. The pieces can cause abdominal infections or obstructions, both of which can be life-threatening. Sometimes symptoms don’t appear right after your dog ingests tennis ball pieces. 

Signs To Watch For if Your Dog Eats a Tennis Ball

The symptoms you notice in your dog can vary depending on the effect of the tennis ball. 

Signs of choking

  • Pawing at the face
  • Retching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling
  • Restlessness

Signs of obstruction or abdominal infection

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea at first followed by constipation

Signs of toxicity

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Seizures
  • blindness

When dogs eat pieces of a tennis ball, they may show different symptoms depending on how the material affects them. Some dogs may choke on large chunks. If the rubber gets to the stomach, it can cause an abdominal infection, obstruction, or possibly a toxic reaction.

What Happens to Dogs When They Eat a Tennis Ball?

When your dog eats a tennis ball, it can have various effects on his system. Larger chunks may get stuck in the throat or esophagus and cause your pooch to choke. 

If the tennis ball, pieces of rubber, or fuzz reach the stomach safely, they can collect and form a bolus of material. Unfortunately, tennis balls are not digestible, so the materials won’t break down. The fuzz and rough edges of rubber can irritate the stomach lining and make the organ susceptible to infections. If the irritation is severe, it may cause small perforations in the stomach wall. This allows digestive slurry to seep into the abdomen and leads to an infection known as peritonitis.

When the material continues through the digestive tract, it may lodge in the intestines and cause an obstruction. Food is unable to pass through your dog’s system, and the tissue becomes inflamed. This situation quickly becomes an emergency requiring veterinary care.

While not as common, the glue or other materials in some tennis balls made specifically for pets may contain harmful or toxic substances such as lead. If your dog ingests enough poison, he may have vomiting, diarrhea, or other more severe symptoms.

There are several ways tennis balls can cause problems for dogs. The material can get stuck in the throat or intestines. It may also irritate the stomach lining and cause infection in the stomach or abdomen. Additionally, some dog tennis balls can contain toxic materials that make your dog sick.

Why Are Tennis Balls Dangerous for Dogs?

Dogs love to chew on their toys when they’re bored. So, if they have unfettered access to tennis balls, they may start to gnaw on the fuzz and eventually pop open the rubber casing. When they gnaw off chunks of rubber and swallow them, there can be serious problems like choking or obstructions. If the material lingers in the stomach, it can rub against the lining or clump together and block the gastrointestinal tract. This happens because your pup’s system can’t digest rubber or the fuzz from tennis balls. 

The best way to prevent your pooch from eating a tennis ball is to 

  • Only let Fido play with a ball while under your supervision
  • Teach your dog to drop the tennis ball on command
  • Store toys out of your dog’s reach when you’re done playing
  • If your dog can access tennis balls outside, only take him out when you can watch him

Tennis balls can be dangerous for dogs because they can’t digest the rubber or fuzz. Unfortunately, dogs like to chew their toys, which can be disastrous. The best way to prevent a problem is to only let your pup have a tennis ball when he’s under your supervision.

How Will My Vet Treat My Dog If He Eats Some Tennis Ball?

The veterinarian will give your dog a thorough physical exam and use diagnostic imaging to identify the rubber pieces. An x-ray or ultrasound can help the doctor determine the location, size, and the number of pieces of rubber in the gastrointestinal tract.

If there are pieces lodged in the throat, your vet may induce vomiting in your dog to make him choke. However, if the pieces are in the stomach or beyond, vomiting could cause pieces to stick in the throat on the way up. 

Your veterinarian may choose to hospitalize and observe your dog if the rubber pieces in the stomach are smaller. Sometimes, they will pass through the digestive tract without causing a problem. If there are larger chunks or there’s an obstruction, your veterinarian will need to surgically remove the rubber. 

Your veterinarian will examine your dog and use diagnostic imaging to determine the size, location, and amount of rubber in the gastrointestinal tract. Depending on what the doctor finds, he may induce vomiting, observe your dog, or surgically remove the rubber pieces.

How Long Will it Take for My Dog to Recover After Eating a Tennis Ball?

The recovery period for your dog after eating a tennis ball will depend on how the materials affected your pooch. 

  • Smaller pieces of rubber may pass safely through the digestive tract in 12-24 hours
  • If your dog chokes on rubber pieces, they should recover in a few days to a week or so
  • When the rubber causes an infection in the stomach or abdomen, antibiotic treatment will take at least 10 days to 2 weeks
  • It will take your dog at least 2 weeks to recover if he requires surgery

Your dog’s recovery period after eating a tennis ball depends on how the materials affect your pooch. Small pieces of rubber may pass through the tract in a few days, but other conditions require several days to a few weeks or more to fully resolve. 

The Final Woof

Tennis balls make fun toys for dogs, but when your pup chews and swallows pieces of a ball, they can become dangerous. The rubber isn’t digestible, so the materials can irritate or get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract. When this happens, it can cause choking, an infection, or an obstruction.

If your dog ate a tennis ball, check the area and remove any remaining materials. Check your dog’s mouth and extract any pieces then call your vet. The doctor will examine your dog and determine the location and amount of rubber in your pup’s gastrointestinal tract. Depending on the size and position of the pieces, he may observe your dog, induce vomiting, keep your furbaby for observation, or perform surgery. 

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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