"We need to realize we're asking dogs to run like athletes."

By Meghan Overdeep
June 09, 2019
Dog with Ball Thrower
Credit: MachineHeadz/Getty Images

Long-range ball throwers are great for wearing out energetic dogs and keeping hands clean while playing fetch, but for all their ease, they might also be causing irreparable damage to our furry friends.

UK veterinarian Hannah Capon told the Daily Express that she's alarmed by how many pet parents seem to think little of throwing balls at high speeds until their dogs collapse from exhaustion. She said that this sort of repeated exertion can unnecessary strain on their joints, muscles, and cartilage, and can result in long-term health problems like arthritis.

"We need to realize we're asking dogs to run like athletes. They're going from standing still to a gallop, then throwing themselves in the air, braking and skidding," Capon explained. "This might be up and down a hill or on a beach, and it's causing damage to their joints and trauma to muscles and cartilage."

She added that many times, because the dog is so excited, they carry on through the pain.

"For the many dogs who might have injuries or mobility problems, we're making these even worse, meaning pets need to be on medication. This can take years off their life expectancy."

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In addition to ditching the thrower, Capon recommends that dogs be warmed up before playing with a ball, to make sure that their muscles are prepared. Owners should also avoid fetch on slippery surfaces, up and down hills, or for extended periods on the beach.

And most importantly, put a time limit on fetch, because "no matter how much pain the dog is in, the power of the ball is stronger and they will keep running after it," Capon notes.