There are many pros and cons of antlers for dogs and varying opinions about using antlers as chew toys. With so many options available, it is important to consider all of the information to make the best choice for your dog. If you have any doubts or questions, check with your veterinarian before offering your dog a chew toy you are unsure of.
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Benefits of antler chews
There are many benefits of antler chews. They are hard, which makes them a tempting option for dogs that love to chew and tend to quickly destroy other options such as rawhides or bully sticks. Since they last a long time, your dog is entertained for longer while you are out of the house and you will likely save money since you won't have to replace the antler as often.
Antlers come from a variety of sources, so while deer antlers are the hardest, other options such as elk or moose antlers may have less density. You can also select an antler or part of an antler that is an appropriate size for your dog. In addition, since deer and elk shed their antlers each year, the production of antler chews is sustainable.
Antler chews are also a nutritious option as the bone has plenty of calcium. Some antlers will come with marrow still inside which also offers extra nutrition for your dog. It is important to note that your dog does not likely need the extra minerals if he is fed quality dog food.
Deer antler dangers
Despite these benefits, there are several dangers of allowing your dog to chew on antlers. First, if you allow your dog to keep an antler you found on the trail, there is a risk of disease. In addition, the antler is likely more dried out and therefore likely to splinter and harm your dog. The splinters can cut your dog's mouth or get stuck in his throat or digestive tract, which requires emergency surgery.
Even with fresh antlers, the hard surface can easily break a tooth. This is extremely painful for your dog and you will be looking at an expensive veterinary bill to repair the tooth and even more if your dog suffers a subsequent infection or abscess.
How to evaluate chew toys
There are several points to consider when selecting a chew toy. First, evaluate how hard or soft the chew is. Press your nail into the chew. It is too hard if there is no give in the surface of the toy. You also want to avoid a toy that is so soft that your dog can tear it apart and eat the pieces. It should be durable enough so that you don't need to offer a new chew after just a few minutes.
Ensure the chew is made of safe materials and does not have any coatings or ingredients that may be toxic or upsetting to your dog's health. If possible, chews should also be washable so that pathogens don't develop and grow when your dog isn't gnawing on the chew. Finally, it should be an appropriate size for your dog. If you have a large dog, don't select a chew that he can easily fit in his mouth, for example.
Use these criteria and your veterinarian's recommendation when evaluating the pros and cons of antlers for dogs and deciding if it is the right chew toy for your family pet.
Best chew bones for dogs
The Veterinary Oral Health Council offers a list of approved chew toys. If you are having trouble selecting a chew for your dog, consider one that is on this list.
Antlers are not on the list of the accepted chew toys, but many dogs enjoy them without any issue. If you decide to give your dog an antler chew, supervise him while he is chewing so you can remove the antler if it starts to split or you become concerned about your dog's teeth. Be sure to check for any sharp points or edges before giving your dog the antler.