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If you are looking for a safe hard chew for your dog, you may be frustrated, as it seems that nothing is safe.
Bones, rawhide, Nylabone; they all present different risks as chews for your dog.
But what about antlers?
Antlers for dogs as chew treats are also controversial, with mixed opinions on whether they are safe or cause major dental problems.
In today’s article, we will start by investigating the question of whether it is safe for dogs to chew antlers.
SPOILER ALERT! It depends on the dog. Antlers can most definitely cause dental problems with some dogs including chipped and cracked teeth. If you do decide to give your dog antlers, we will also look at what kind of antlers are best for dogs and how to safely give your dog this treat. Finally, we will look at the best places to buy antlers for dogs.
OUR TOP PICK: If you are looking for a reliable brand that offers a range of safe antlers for dogs, look at USA Bones & Chews.
Contents & Quick Navigation
Product Quick Links
- Best Overall Antlers – USA Bones and Chews
- Best Affordable Antlers – Buck Bone Organics
- Best Deer Antlers – Prairie Dog
- Best Novel Antlers – Icelandic
- Best Antler Burr – USA Bones & Chews Elk Antler Burr
Should You Give Your Dog Antlers?
There is a big question mark over whether or not we should be giving antlers to dogs.
Some vets say it is absolutely fine and good for their teeth, while others say to never give your dog antlers as it can break their teeth and cause serious dental problems. So, what should you believe?
The fact of the matter is there aren’t any comprehensive studies on whether antlers are safe for dogs. The opinions of vets are based on anecdotal evidence from their personal experiences.
So, what does that mean? It suggests that while a lot of dogs have no problem at all with antlers, some dogs have had their teeth damaged by these incredibly hard chews.
So, whether antlers are safe for your dog will depend on your individual dog. Puppies should not be given antlers until their adult teeth are completely grown in. Older dogs also shouldn’t have them as their teeth weaken with age.
You can then judge the strength of your dog’s teeth based on their breed and also by observing their chewing behavior. If they make short work of other chews, such as bones, then they probably have the teeth for antlers.
If they need a long time to get through other chews, then there is no real point in taking the risk.
Labradors generally have strong teeth and are one of the breeds for which antlers might be appropriate, but consult your vet to better understand your dog’s overall dental health.
If you do decide to give your dog antlers, make sure you check their teeth after each chew to ensure no damage has been done.
Look for cracks and cavities, and also check their gums for redness; the rubbing of hard antler against the gums can also cause issues.
How To Give Your Dog Antlers
If antlers are so dangerous, why would you risk giving them to your dog?
They can be used as part of a healthy dental care plan, and they can also relieve boredom and be a relaxing activity, which can improve your dog’s mood and help curb destructive behavior.
Antlers are hard bones that grow out of the heads of certain animals. They are shed periodically and then picked up and gnawed by other animals.
For this reason, they are often seen as an environmentally friendly chew for dogs and also a natural choice, since dogs would have picked them up in the wild.
So, if you do decide to give your dog antlers, make sure you do it the right way.
Start with choosing the right type of antler. The most common varieties are deer and elk, but you can also reindeer and moose antlers.
There is much talk about elk being a bit softer than deer and so forth, but really, there is little difference.
Choose an antler that is about the size of your dog’s head, so there is no chance that they could accidentally swallow it or choke on it.
Dog’s should only be given antlers and other chews for about 10-15 minutes at a time, so they do not chew too much and inflame their gums through excessive chewing.
Dogs should also be supervised at all times with these kinds of chews.
That way you will know if the bone breaks or splinters and needs to be removed, or if something does go wrong, you are on hand to help your dog immediately.
5 Best Antlers For Dogs Reviewed
If you do decide to give your dog antlers to chew, there are a few good options on the market, which are ethically sourced and designed to be safe for your dog when used correctly. Here are our top five picks.
Best Overall Antlers
OUR PICK: USA Bones and Chews
USA Bones and Chews makes quite a few different antler options for dogs, always ethically sourced from within the United States.
They offer regular deer and elk antler chews, but one of our favorites is their split elk antler chews.
The fact that the bone has been cut makes it a bit easier to get at the marrow on the inside. Both the marrow and elk antler, in general, are slightly softer; it is an easier experience for your dog.
Like all of their antlers, this range comes in a variety of sizes so you can choose one that is safe for your dog. All of their antlers are also low odor and none are treated with chemicals, bleach, dyes, or formaldehyde.
Overall, what you have is an antler chew you can trust to be from an ethical source and not contain any extra nasties that might upset your dog.
Best Affordable Antlers
OUR PICK: Buck Bone Organics
If you are looking for affordable antlers that are still safe for your dog, then Buck Bone Organics makes a good line.
They come in packs of six, and there are a variety of different sizes to choose from, so you can find a safe choice for your pooch.
The antlers are top-grade A antlers harvested in the United States without any processing, additives, or fillers, and the resulting product is eco-friendly and odorless.
What sets this product apart is that all the antlers are reviewed and shaped by hand to ensure there are no cracks of outcrops that might be dangerous for your dog.
The result is an affordable product that is safe and has a low environmental impact.
Best Deer Antlers
OUR PICK: Prairie Dog
Prairie Dog is another trusted brand that produces some of the best deer antlers on the market, again in a variety of sizes.
They offer antlers exclusively harvested from North America that have been naturally shed and are Grade A or B.
The company then uses an 11 step quality control process to ensure that only the safest antlers make it into your dog’s mouth.
Like all the other products that we are recommending, these antlers are 100 percent natural with nothing added that might unexpectedly upset your dog, such as dyes, preservatives, or artificial flavors.
While Prairie Dog’s deer products are their best, they do also offer elk and moose options.
Best Novel Antlers
OUR PICK: Icelandic
When we talk about dog diets, we often talk about novel proteins, which are the proteins that dogs don’t eat very often and, therefore, it is good to add this kind of variation to their diet. You can also get novel antlers.
Icelandic offers a range of lamb horns, ethically sourced from free-range Icelandic lambs, one of the few animals that shed their horns.
The resulting product is completely free of additives, preservatives, supplements, and anything nasty. But the horn is cleaned, boiled, and baked in order to meet FDA, USDA, EU, and MAST guidelines.
These horns tend to be a little bit softer than antlers as they are bone that is covered in keratin, which is the same substance that makes up human fingernails.
This makes them a good alternative choice if you are worried that antlers are a little too hard.
Best Antler Burr
OUR PICK: USA Bones & Chews Elk Antler Burr
USA Bones & Chews gets a second mention on the list because they offer a great alternative product in elk antler burrs.
Burrs are the portion of the antler that attaches the antler to the animal’s skull and is the point where the antler naturally falls off.
This is the strongest section of the antler, but it isn’t too strong for your dog when it is cut into slices, exposing the softer marrow on the inside. It can also be ideal for aggressive chewers, as the flat shape means the burr won’t splinter or chip and cause potential choking issues.
There is less variety in size with burrs, so they are better for small to medium dogs, as they are just too small for larger breeds.
Antlers For Dogs FAQs
Can Antlers Make Dogs Sick?
Antlers are natural products, and if they have been prepared properly, they should not contain anything nasty that can be toxic to your dog or make them sick.
However, chewing antlers can still make your dog unwell. The biggest risk is a cracked tooth, which will not only hurt your dog but can result in an infection in the area.
If the antler rubs too hard against the gums, it can also cause your dog serious discomfort.
Another risk is the antler splintering and small pieces lodging in your dog’s mouth, throat, or stomach.
This is why your dog should always be supervised while chewing antlers in the hope that you will realize if the antler breaks apart and can remove any pieces before they do any damage.
As with any product that is ingestible antlers can also cause an upset stomach and diarrhea. We’ve heard this to be especially common when purchasing a lower quality antler.
At What Age Can A Dog Have An Antler?
Dogs should not be given antlers until their adult teeth are fully grown in, which usually happens at around six months.
When starting a young dog on antlers, it is a good idea to give them the chew for a shorter period of time and also check their mouth carefully to ensure they are not hurting themselves by chewing too aggressively.
It is always a good idea to consult your vet before starting your dog on antlers, as they can guide you on whether your dog’s teeth are strong enough.
Can Antlers Hurt Dogs?
Yes, antlers can hurt dogs. While antlers are hard, they can splinter and these pieces can become lodged in your dog’s mouth, throat, or stomach, causing damage as well as pain.
The hardness of antlers also means they can damage your dog’s teeth and gums if they chew too aggressively or if they have weak teeth.
Can Dogs Digest Antlers?
Antlers are digestible for dogs. As they chew on the antler, it will reduce in size as they ingest very small pieces of antler. The antler contains calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc, all of which are very healthy for dogs.
Are Antlers Better Than Bones For Dogs?
Antlers and bones both offer dogs similar benefits. They are both hard chews, which help clean your dog’s teeth, and as they chew the bones and/or antlers, your pooch digests valuable vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc.
Chewing bones and antlers is also a form of relaxing entertainment for dogs.
Antlers are often presented as a better alternative than raw bones, because they are harder than most other animal bones, and therefore, are less likely to break apart and become a hazard for your dog.
On the other hand, because antlers are harder, they may be more likely to damage a dog’s teeth.
Dogs should never be given cooked bones as the cooking process makes the bones brittle, making them more likely to break apart and become a choking and cutting hazard to your canine friend.
Most of the hard dog chews available on the market come with risks, as the hardness of the chew can do damage to your dog’s teeth, but antlers are one of the better options on the market.
They are harder than bones, so less likely to splinter, and they are a completely natural product with no nasties that can upset your dog, unlike rawhide or Nylabone.
While it is important to ensure your dog has strong enough teeth for antlers and to make sure you give them these hard chews in an appropriate and supervised manner, they can be a great way to entertain your dog and keep their teeth clean and healthy.
There are some excellent antler brands on the market for dogs that provide ethically sourced antlers that are as safe as possible for your dog. Among the best brands are USA Bones & Chews.
That being said, over the years we have heard stories of cracked teeth, upset stomachs, and even blockages from antlers. Make sure you always closely monitor your dog anytime you give them something new.
Do you give your dog antlers?
Share your experience with the community in the comments below.
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