Are Antlers Safe for Dogs?

Know the potential risks before letting your pup chew on antlers.

Photo by: Shutterstock/InBetweentheBlinks

Shutterstock/InBetweentheBlinks

Dog owners are well familiar with their pets’ penchant for chewing on things. Dogs chew to keep their teeth healthy, expend energy and relieve pain from growing teeth. They have tough-as-nails teeth and stalwart constitutions that can accommodate a great variety of chew-worthy items. But pups can’t just chew on anything and everything without consequence, and in the case of deer or elk antlers, danger may be lurking. Or is it? Today we're taking a look at both sides of this controversial side of dog ownership.

Antler Risks

A responsible pet owner will take a moment to consider the potential hazards of their dog chewing on antlers. Some common antler-chewing dangers are:

  • Internal damage: While antlers are generally very strong, they will eventually break apart, especially under the duress of a determined pooch. Those sharp pieces are like slow-moving shrapnel that can lodge in your dog’s throat or mouth or work their way into the intestine and cause a blockage requiring emergency surgery. In severe cases, this can be fatal. Always keep an eye on your dog while he’s chewing and take the antler away if it shows signs of breaking apart.
  • Broken teeth: If you’ve ever experienced a broken tooth, you’re familiar with the pain that comes along with it. Dogs feel the same way, and antlers or other tough chews often contribute to broken teeth and subsequent maladies such as abscess or infection.

We hate to see our beloved pets in any kind of pain; plus, major surgery is incredibly expensive.

Antler Benefits

On the positive side, antlers are super tough and last longer than many other chew toys. They don’t splinter apart as much, and they’re free if your dog finds a set out in the woods. Pet stores sell antlers as well, so they’re easily accessible. Other antler benefits to consider:

  • Health benefits: North American deer and elk antlers last a long time, rarely split or chip and are non-allergic (great news for dogs with allergies). Antlers are also known to improve a dog’s coat.
  • Sustainable and humane: Deer and elk shed their antlers in a natural process with no harm to the animal. New antlers also reproduce every year in a highly sustainable cycle.
  • High in nutrition: Antlers are packed with healthy minerals your dog needs, like calcium, potassium, iron and zinc.
  • Made by nature: One of the biggest benefits of antlers is they do not contain any artificial ingredients or other nasty and harmful chemicals.

The Bottom Line

It’s up to you to decide whether or not to give your dog antler chews. If you do opt for these treats, be sure the chew is large enough to avoid choking and be vigilant for sharp edges or broken pieces.

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