is a tennis ball bad for a dog?
Dogs naturally interact with objects with their mouths. One frequent guest is a ball! Tennis balls are very often used to play both indoors and outdoors and are enjoyed by dogs.
However, as with anything that goes into a dog's mouth, there is a risk that it may not come back out! Some dogs like to chew. It doesn't matter if it's a stick or even something advertised as "safe," like pig ears or rawhide. If your puppy chews, tennis balls may soon become the next victim of your dog's tendency to chew.
The problem is that tennis balls can break with repeated use. They then begin to lose bits of fuzzy surface or rubber, which are even easier to swallow. This can harm your pup and even cause intestinal obstruction, which can be life-threatening. Keep reading to find out what to do and when you need to call your local veterinarian.
Can eating a ball harm your dog?
Tennis balls are made of synthetic materials such as rubber and plastic, and they are not digested by the body. This means that if they are swallowed and enter the intestines, they will have to come out intact. They will either come back through the mouth or on the other end!
Once a tennis ball or any part of it enters the intestines, it is called a foreign body or foreign object. In this case, there is a risk of intestinal obstruction. The intestines are long and often narrow. This makes them very easily blocked, and this is a major risk for dogs. Intestinal obstruction is very serious and can be life-threatening.
Are Tennis Balls Safe for Dogs? Answers
But don't panic! There are many things vets can do to help your dog. And it's true, even if the whole ball is swallowed. But you should seek help at the earliest opportunity for the best possible outcome.
- Tooth Damage. Tennis balls are also thought to wear down dogs' teeth when they chew them, because of the rough, hairy surface. If your dog likes to chew, it's best to avoid tennis balls and look for specially designed dog toys that won't damage his teeth.
- Joint damage. Older dogs should also avoid tennis balls. Throwing a ball and playing ball can put a lot of pressure on joints. Older dogs are potentially at risk for arthritis in their legs, and turning and high speed can be very destructive on top of that. Uniform and controlled exercise is best and can provide sufficient physical and mental stimulation.
- Danger of choking. Tennis balls and other smaller balls can also pose a choking hazard for dogs. This again can be a veterinary emergency as the ball can block the airway. You need to make sure the ball is the right size for your dog so that it is not too small for him to swallow.
What to do
If your dog ate parts of his favorite ball, it may not do him any harm. It all depends on what was swallowed. However, there are a few steps you will want to take. Follow the steps below to make sure the dog is not affected as a result of their chewing habits.
- Remove the ball and any figures. Make sure that you remove any remaining ball pieces or any other balls away from your dog. This is to ensure that no other foreign objects are swallowed when you are standing with your back! If it is safe, try to get any other pieces of matter or balloon out of your mouth.
- Find out how much was eaten. Try to approximate what was eaten and when. This is important, especially depending on the size of your pet. Small dogs that have eaten quite a bit of rubber may be more at risk for obstruction simply because their intestines are smaller than those of a larger dog.
- Call your veterinarian. Contact your local veterinarian immediately for further advice. They will ask about what happened, any background information you have and any symptoms of distress that may be present. Based on this, they will be able to provide individualized professional advice for you and your dog.
- Follow your veterinarian's instructions. Usually they will recommend a visit and a checkup, but in some cases advice may be given over the phone. It is best to take their advice seriously, as it will be in your best interest and your best interest.
What happens if a dog swallows a ball?
In the stomach.
Initially, the ball will enter the stomach. There it will irritate the mucous membrane of the stomach and block the exit from the stomach into the intestines ("gateway"). This can cause vomiting and discomfort and usually causes them to stop eating. In lucky cases, the ball or parts of it may come back out again, but this is not always the case. These symptoms will start 30 minutes to 12 hours later.
In the gut.
If the balls come out of the stomach and into the intestines, there is a long and winding path to the outside world at the other end. The balloon will irritate the intestinal mucosa and cause damage. And at any stage it can get stuck in the intestine and cause intestinal obstruction. Initial signs of intestinal obstruction include lethargy, vomiting, pain, restlessness and loss of appetite. This may be followed by diarrhea or constipation.
Dogs exhibit abdominal pain by extending their bodies with their backs up in the air. This is known as the prayer position because it looks as if they are bowing to pray. Symptoms of intestinal obstruction appear 12-72 hours after consuming the balloon. It usually takes the lucky dogs 2-5 days for the foreign object to come out the other end. But it can get stuck at any time.
How do you treat a swallowed ball?
Your veterinarian will be able to assess your dog's risk and help you treat it as best as possible. They will review the risks, benefits and costs of each option so you can make an informed decision.
- Monitoring. Some of the risks of intestinal obstruction depend on size. This means that if a large dog has eaten a very small portion of a tennis ball, or if the dog has just eaten some of the soft, fleecy exterior, it may be reasonable to let it go through the dog. However, if a small dog has eaten a large chunk, it poses a great danger.
- Inducing vomiting. If your veterinarian thinks the risk of obstruction is significant, we need to intervene. If your dog has swallowed a ball or parts of it within the last 4 hours, your veterinarian can give your dog a strong, reliable injection to induce vomiting and bring the items back in.
- Further Investigations. If you observe any symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, pain and loss of appetite, or if more than four hours have passed since the tennis ball was swallowed, more serious interventions are needed. Your veterinarian will perform a complete clinical examination and discuss the situation with you to fully understand the background and symptoms your dog is exhibiting.
- Surgery. If your veterinarian suspects your dog has a bowel obstruction, emergency surgery is recommended to remove the foreign object before it damages and ruptures the intestines. There is no other alternative.
Author of the article: Dr. Joanna Woodnutt Dr. Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS is a qualified veterinarian working in the UK. She has a passion for educating owners to help them understand their pets: she believes that knowing why things happen, how medications work and even when to worry helps owners feel more confident in caring for their dogs.