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Are Stress Balls Toxic to Dogs?

Stress balls have become increasingly popular over the years as a way for people to relieve anxiety and tension by squeezing a soft, pliable ball. They come in a variety of textures, shapes, and materials. But if you’re a dog owner, you may be wondering – are stress balls actually safe for dogs? Can they pose any risks if chewed or ingested?

The short answer is yes, stress balls can potentially be toxic to dogs if eaten. The level of toxicity depends on what the stress ball is made of. Many contain chemicals or fillers that can cause harm if ingested by a dog.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common materials used in stress balls and the risks they pose:

  • Polyurethane foam – Polyurethane foam is a common filling for many squishy stress balls. While not highly toxic, if ingested it can cause minor stomach upset like vomiting or diarrhea. The bigger risk is intestinal blockage if a large piece is swallowed.
  • Paint and dyes – Stress balls are often brightly colored using paints, dyes and pigments. These may contain heavy metals like lead or zinc which can cause poisoning if licked or ingested.
  • Scented oils – Stress balls are sometimes infused with fragrant oils like lavender or lemon to promote relaxation. Oils can cause stomach irritation, excess salivation or respiratory issues if chewed or ingested by dogs.
  • Beads – Small plastic beads are sometimes used to fill stress balls to provide texture. They can easily be swallowed and cause a major choking hazard or intestinal obstruction.
  • Glitter – Decorative glitter inside stress balls can contain toxic metals and cause obstruction or poisoning if eaten.
  • Latex – Natural rubber latex is used in some stress balls. It’s not highly toxic but latex allergies in dogs can cause mild reactions if chewed or ingested.
  • Flaxseed – Flaxseed-filled stress balls are promoted as a more natural, eco-friendly option. However, dogs should not eat high amounts of flaxseed as it can cause stomach upset.
  • Choking hazard – Even without toxic fillers, stress balls still pose a choking risk from swallowing large pieces that can get stuck in the throat, stomach or intestines.

So how can you keep your dog safe around stress balls? Consider these tips:

  • Supervise use – Don’t let your dog play with or chew on stress balls unmonitored. Keep them out of reach when not in use.
  • Choose dog-safe brands – Pick non-toxic brands made of rubber, cotton, or other digestible materials if you do want to use them as dog toys.
  • Remove damaged balls – Inspect for damage regularly and discard immediately if any stuffing/contents are exposed.
  • Avoid small balls – Large stress balls are harder to swallow whole compared to small marble-sized ones.
  • Consider alternative toys – For anxious dogs, try safer chew toys like Kongs stuffed with treats or puzzle toys to provide mental stimulation.

While the majority of stress balls likely won’t cause fatal toxicity if ingested, their potential to cause blockages, choking or stomach problems makes them generally unsuitable and risky as chew toys for dogs. Supervision and choosing dog-safe brands is key to letting your pup benefit from stress balls without putting them in harm’s way. If you think your dog swallowed any amount of stuffing or contents, contact your vet right away as emergency treatment may be needed. With some precautions, you can both reduce anxiety – you with stress balls and your dog with calming chews or toys.