Are antlers safe for dogs to chew? Teething considerations for dog parents

Posted by Dr. Jessica on

are antlers safe for a dog to chew

For dog lovers wanting to provide a rustic, natural treat for their pets, an antler dog chew may seem like the perfect option. But are antlers safe for dogs? Before purchasing antlers for dog enjoyment, learn the risks and tips for safety.

What Are the Types of Antler Dog Chews?

While all antler dog chews are natural, they vary in shape, texture, size, and animal. Antler dog chew toy options include the following:

Elk Antlers

Much larger in size, the antlers of elk are best for larger breeds. They are usually sold in split form.

Deer Antlers

Overall, these antlers have a harder texture than antlers from other animals. They can be small or large, offering dog owners the ability to pick one that is appropriately sized for a dog’s breed.

Moose Antlers

These types of antlers are softer than the others. It’s possible to purchase them split and in a variety of sizes.

Water Buffalo Horns

While not technically an antler, a water buffalo horn is similar to a dog chew antler. Medium to large size dogs may enjoy and prefer the sensation of chewing a horn to an antler.

Are Antlers Safe for Dogs?

Owners often want to purchase a chew toy for their dog to provide a non-destructive outlet for their natural chewing urges. Compared to a table leg, an antler seems to make sense.

However, depending on dogs’ chewing style and jaw strength, antlers can be destructive to teeth. Chewing — in general — can help to reduce tartar and plaque build up on dog teeth. Dogs with smaller, weaker, or more sensitive gums chewing on hard items like antlers can experience cracks or broken teeth. It isn't uncommon for larger dogs with more jaw strength to experience fractures due to excessive force or twisting while chewing an antler. Like with humans, broken teeth are very painful and make it difficult for dogs to eat. If a broken tooth results in an abscess, pet parents can be hit with an expensive vet bill.

Additionally, antlers often split, splinter, or break into smaller pieces. These sometimes-sharp bits can get stuck in a dog’s stomach, mouth, throat, or even intestines which can result in occasional blockages that may require treatment.

Antler Dog Chew Safety Tips

Many dogs simply love antlers—and it’s possible to allow dogs to chew safely. Follow these best practices for dog chew toys.

Get the Right Size Chew Toy

Do not purchase an antler or any chew toy that can fit completely in a dog’s mouth. This will help to reduce the risk of choking. This is especially important for dogs that are aggressive chewers or those that chew quickly due to anxiety.

Watch Dogs While They Chew Antlers 

Take away pieces that split off from the chew so they don’t get swallowed. Harder items are best only for dogs that are softer, more casual chewers that take their time.

Consider Alternatives

Most veterinarians recommend dog owners purchase other chew toys besides antlers. However, rawhide, bones, and other popular chew toys all have pros and cons. Make sure to research the options before making a decision for the type of chew that is best for a dog.

Natural Isn’t Always Better

Plenty of dogs love antlers, and plenty of dog owners see antlers as a way to preserve a dog’s natural instincts. But are antlers safe for dogs? Not so much. Hard chew toys pose a significant risk to dog teeth. Try other dog chew toys first to get a sense for what type of chewer the dog is before gradually increasing the density and size of a chew towards something like an antler.

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