Why Dogs Shouldn’t Play with Balloons (and Safe Alternatives)

A Boxer Dog Playing With Balloons

If you’ve seen any of the YouTube videos of dogs playing with balloons, it’s no surprise that you would want to try filling a room with latex balloons and letting your dog loose on them, but when we see them, we can’t help but cringe. The fact is that balloons are not a safe toy for dogs to play with.

There are three reasons why dogs shouldn’t play with balloons:

  1. Balloons present a choking hazard. 
  2. Balloons may not pass through the dog’s digestive system properly and cause a bowel obstruction. 
  3. The noise created by a popped balloon can sometimes lead to a dog becoming fearful of balloons, which can make things like birthday parties problematic.

Each of these alone is a good reason to stop your dog from playing with balloons, and when put all together, they make quite the case. If you still aren’t convinced, continue reading. In this article, we will explain why dogs shouldn’t play with balloons and provide several alternatives to balloons that are sure to please your pup.

Dogs Shouldn’t Play with Balloons

For dogs, brightly colored balloons probably look a lot like a fun toy, and a dog could have tons of fun with a balloon, but that doesn’t mean they should play with them. There are three main reasons you shouldn’t let your dog play with balloons. Let’s look at the most serious one first.

Balloons are Choking Hazards for Dogs

Terrier mixes playing with balloons and floating away

Balloons are not a safe toy for dogs because they present a severe choking hazard. One of the primary ways that dogs explore and experience their world is through their mouths. They mostly put things in their mouth to test if it is food, but they also lick and explore objects in an attempt to understand what they are. (The first question they ask just happens to be about the edibility of the item.)

If a dog does this with a balloon that has been blown up, chances are it is going to pop. When it pops, a piece of the balloon could be flung or inhaled into the dog’s mouth. Even if it doesn’t pop, the dog might attempt to explore the popped balloon by licking it or putting it in their mouth.

The balloon can then get lodged in their throat and is more difficult to dispel than other objects because it conforms to the throat. The dog will not be able to breathe, and if the balloon is not removed, the consequences are fatal. 

Balloons Can Create Digestive Problems for Your Dog

The biggest risk balloons pose for dogs is choking, but digestive issues can also be very problematic. Unfortunately, intestinal obstruction is common in dogs because they tend to eat things they shouldn’t.

Most of the time, if a dog swallows a balloon or a piece of a balloon without choking, it will make its way through the digestive system and out the other end without issue. However, there is a chance that it can block the digestive system. Whether or not the balloon causes a blockage depends on the size of the dog and the balloon’s size, but there is also an element of chance involved.

If your dog has swallowed a balloon, you should be on the lookout for evidence that it has passed. If your dog experiences any of the following symptoms after swallowing a balloon, you should immediately see medical attention.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Whining
  • Abnormal drooling
  • Trouble defecating

If the balloon has caused an obstruction, your dog will likely need emergency surgery to get it out. So it is clearly better to keep balloons away from your dog and avoid the problem.

Balloons Can Be Scary for Dogs

Compared to lifesaving surgery and choking hazards, worrying about how your dog reacts to balloons probably doesn’t seem all that important. However, it is still something you should consider, especially if your dog tends to be more anxious or fearful. 

When a balloon pops, the loud noise can be scary for dogs, especially if your dog is a rescue dog, naturally anxious, or a puppy. This can cause them to develop a balloon phobia. In your everyday life, it might not make a massive difference if your dog is fearful of balloons, but it can cause problems in certain situations.

For example, let’s say you’re going to parade, and there is a group of children strolling down the sidewalk with balloons. How is your dog going to react to that? How a dog reacts when it is afraid can vary quite a bit depending on the circumstances. He might try to hide or whimper, but he also might growl or become aggressive.

If your dog doesn’t have a bad experience with a balloon popping in his face or close to him, he is less likely to develop a fear of balloons, and you can avoid this type of situation entirely.

7 Safe Alternatives to Balloons for Your Dog

Now that we have you thoroughly convinced that you should not let your dog play with balloons, what can you let him play with that offers a similarly exciting experience? If your dog loves balloons, then here is what you should look for when purchasing a new toy.

  • Rubbery: Some dogs seem to just love rubber. These are the dogs that will sniff out balloons hidden anywhere in your home and swallow them in one gulp. You can help satisfy this love by providing rubbery toys. 
  • Bouncy: Balloons are undoubtedly bouncy, and if this is what your dog loves about them, select from the myriad of bouncy toys available for dogs.
  • Airborne: A dog might like the fact that the balloon floats in the air more readily than their other toys.

You won’t be able to find a toy that offers the same exact experience that a balloon does, but several toys are similar enough that they are worth having for your balloon loving pet. Below we will give you specific ideas for dog toys that satisfy your dog’s love of balloons.

Our Personal Favorite Alternative to Balloons: Pet Qwerks Doggy Incredibubbles

Bubbles are the closest you can get to balloons without actually letting your dog play with balloons. They float, they pop, and sometimes they might even bounce. And dogs love them!

Pros of Bubbles for Dogs

  • They are typically safe. Since bubbles are made to be safe for children, they should be okay for dogs as well. 
  • They pop without making a loud noise. Your dog probably won’t develop a fear of them.
  • They are inexpensive. Seriously, a whole gallon of bubbles isn’t going to set you back much.
  • They’re easy. You can set up an outdoor bubble machine, sit back, and watch your dog be entertained.
  • They float. There aren’t many dog toys out there that float. Bubbles will float unpredictably on the wind, and your dog will enjoy chasing after them.

Cons of Bubbles

  • They can be messy if used indoors. Only use a bubble machine outside to avoid getting your home soapy.
  • In high wind, they may float away and draw your dog into an unsafe location. It is best not to use bubbles with your dog if you are near a road.
  • If your dog consumes a large quantity of the bubbles (like if he gets ahold of the entire bottle), they could make him sick. Special care should be taken to keep the bottle out of his reach.

If you really want to give your dog a treat, you can buy special bubbles meant for use with dogs that don’t pop quite as easily and are scented, like Pet Qwerks Doggy Incredibubbles. These bubbles smell like peanut butter and should be exclusively used outdoors.

Best Ball for Rubber Loving Dogs: Kong Ball

Kong is well-known for making durable dog toys that dogs absolutely love. If the reason behind your dog’s balloon loving ways has to do with the rubber, then opting for an indestructible rubber ball like the Kong Ball is the way to go.

Pros of the Kong Ball

  • They are puncture-proof. Your dog won’t be able to pop the ball with its teeth and accidentally swallow it.
  • They let you play interactively with your dog. This is a relationship strengthening toy!
  • They don’t wear out quickly. A Kong Ball will be the only ball you need for a long time. You’re likely to lose it before it wears out.
  • They are inexpensive. Considering how long Kong Balls last, the price of a Kong Ball is very reasonable.

Cons of the Kong Ball

  • They lack novelty. If your dog is bored, a Kong Ball might not help them feel less bored if they’re used to playing with balls.
  • Size Matters. If you decide to purchase a Kong Ball for your dog, make sure you buy the right size for the size of your dog. Smaller dogs will not have fun with a too-large ball, and larger dogs could choke on a ball or swallow a ball that is too small for the size of their mouth.

Best Large Ball for Dogs: Virtually Indestructible Dog Ball

One of the nice things about balloons is that they are big. The dog can nudge them around with their noses and chase after them. If you’re trying to give your dog a similar experience, you should try a large ball not intended to be put in your dog’s mouth, like the 10-inch Virtually Indestructible Dog Ball

Pros of the Virtually Indestructible Dog Ball

  • It is excellent for dogs who like to herd, push, and bop their toys. A larger ball is unique because the dog must maneuver it without using his mouth. 
  • It is nearly indestructible. Even dogs that are incredibly aggressive chewers find this ball hard to destroy.
  • It floats in water! Using this ball in the water with your dog can make the experience boredom-busting.

Cons of the Virtually Indestructible Dog Ball

  • It might not be great for large dogs with powerful jaws. A huge dog may be able to puncture it while trying to maneuver it or eventually chew a hole in the ball.
  • It is made of hard plastic. If your dog likes the feel of chewing on rubber, this isn’t going to do it for them.

Best Bouncy Ball for Dogs: Jolly Pets Bounce-n-Play

If you’re looking for a large ball with some bounce to it, then the Jolly Pets Bounce-n-Play is the way to go. Like a balloon, this ball is large, lightweight, and colorful!

Pros of Jolly Pets Bounce-n-Play

  • It can be bitten. The material used to make this ball allows the dog to puncture it without the ball deflating.
  • It bounces. If the bounciness of balloons excites your dog, then they’re sure to appreciate the bounce in these balls.
  • It floats in water. Tossing this ball in a kiddie pool or around dog-friendly water can be a nice break from routine play.

Cons of Jolly Pets Bounce-n-Play

  • It isn’t a great choice for overly aggressive chewers. They will likely rip it apart pretty quickly.

Best Toy for Chasing: Jalousie Dog Flirt Pole

If your dog enjoys chasing a balloon around until it pops, then the Jalousie Dog Flirt Pole might be fun for him! The toy is attached to a long stick that looks like a fishing pole so that you can flick it around and let it fly while your dog chases after it. Beats chasing after your own tail! 

Pros of Jalousie Dog Flirt Pole

  • It is interactive and lets you play with your dog. You’ll get a kick out of watching your dog chase after the stuffed animal!
  • It comes with multiple toys. You can swap out toys to add variety or have spares when inevitably the toy gets ripped.
  • It is an excellent workout for your dog. He’ll be jumping, running, and pivoting, working all his doggy muscles.

Cons of Jalousie Dog Flirt Pole

  • You have to take the time to use it with your dog. This isn’t a set it and forget it dog toy.
  • The toys that you attach to the end of the pole will eventually need to be replaced.

Best Ball that Makes Noise: The Wobble Wag Giggle Ball

Balloons make noise when they rub up against each other or other things. If this noise is something your dog enjoys, he might also like a noisy ball. The Wobble Wag Giggle Ball is a favorite among dogs because of the enticing sounds it makes. It is designed to make three different noises when nudged with your dog’s nose.

Pros of Wobble Wag Giggle Ball

  • It makes three different noises. Dogs like noisy toys, which is why squeaky toys are so popular. The three different noises add variety to your pup’s play.
  • It’s good for nudging but can also be picked up by most dogs. Your dog can choose how it plays with the ball. 
  • You don’t necessarily need to play with your dog for your dog to have fun with this toy. This makes it a great choice for when you’re at work or out of your home.

Cons of Wobble Wag Giggle Ball

  • It’s noisy. If you don’t like noisy dog toys, this might not be the best toy to use while you’re home.
  • It isn’t very durable and not suitable for chewers. This toy will not last as long with chewers or large dogs. 

Best Dog Toy that Looks Like a Balloon: Charming Pet Product Rubber Balloon Dog Toy

Okay, so a rubber balloon dog isn’t exactly like a balloon, but Charming Pet Product’s Rubber Balloon Toy is adorable, and it will help satisfy a dog who can’t get enough of rubber.

Pros of the Rubber Balloon Dog Toy

  • It’s adorable. Is cuteness a good reason to buy a dog toy? Of course it is – don’t pretend like you haven’t done that before!
  • It’s made of latex, just like a balloon. So if your dog loves latex balloons, he’ll love this toy!
  • It has a nice squishy feeling in their mouth.

Cons of the Rubber Balloon Dog Toy

  • It might not hold up to aggressive chewing.
  • It might not be large enough for a big dog.

Is a Balloon Cover Safe to Use with Dogs?

Using a balloon cover like the Bababloon PetBloon Balloon Cover will make the balloon play safer for pets, but we aren’t convinced that it is the best solution. 

They can prevent a dog from having access to the rubber balloon and choking on it as long as the dog doesn’t tear open the cover, but covering a balloon in cotton just turns the balloon into an easily poppable ball.

It doesn’t really mimic playing with a balloon, could scare your dog with a loud popping noise, and you’ll constantly be replacing the balloon inside.

Balloons Aren’t Good for Dogs

The next time you see one of those adorable YouTube videos of dogs playing with a balloon, you probably won’t get the same warm fuzzies from all the cuteness. Not everyone knows that dogs shouldn’t play with balloons, but now you have the knowledge to proceed with confidence. We recommend that you avoid balloons and try one of the alternatives we listed above instead.

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I think animals are amazing, I couldn't imagine life without them.