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October 21, 2015

Are Antlers Safe for Dogs?

In my video from a couple weeks ago I showed the pups with antlers. A number of people posted comments asking about whether antlers are safe for dogs. No, not like that! Those antlers don’t come out until December I’m talking about deer or elk antlers used
In my video from a couple weeks ago I showed the pups with antlers. A number of people posted comments asking about whether antlers are safe for dogs.

No, not like that! Those antlers don’t come out until December

I’m talking about deer or elk antlers used as chew toys. I first discovered antlers… well actually, Eko first discovered antlers. While staying on a friend’s farm in Montana Eko had free range of the property. When out walking, Eko dashed off and came back with an antler he discovered in the field.

He was quite please with himself. Eko spent the entire week chomping on his prize

In fact, Eko spent over two years gnawing that bad boy down

It wasn’t until Eko had the antler for nearly a year that I first heard rumblings about antlers potentially being dangerous for a dog’s teeth/gums. I immediately checked in with my vet, who noted Eko’s teeth looked great. Eko was delighted he got to keep his favorite chew treat.

That said, it is very possible for dogs to injure themselves with antlers. There are two main factors to consider – one, how hard your dog chews, and two, how hard the antler is. If you’re interested in buying an antler for your pup I recommend avoiding the pet store, where you’re likely to find older/tougher antlers.

I buy my antlers through ebay. After deer/elk shed their antlers, people gather them, cut them and sell them directly. There are multiple reputable shops which allow to you pick size, and more importantly, toughness.

antlers. dogs, rhodesian ridgeback, blog

The reason dogs love antlers is the tasty/healthy marrow on the inside

antlers. dogs, rhodesian ridgeback, blog

It’s a fun challenge for dogs to gnaw the edges of the antler to get at the marrow

For those worried about their pup’s teeth, I recommend starting with a “soft” core. The antler will wear down quickly, but it will also be easiest on teeth. If everything goes well, you can try “medium” cores. These are what I buy for Eko and Penny.

antlers. dogs, rhodesian ridgeback, blog

Penny loves her antler so much she’ll spoon with it while napping

antlers. dogs, rhodesian ridgeback, blog

And when I used to only have one antler, Eko would give me the saddest looks when it was time to share with Penny

antlers. dogs, rhodesian ridgeback, blog

Problem solved

Antlers are expensive, but I’ve found them to be well-worth the cost. They’re long lasting, have no smell/residue, and the dogs love them.

The usual caveats apply – you want to supervise your pup when they try their antler, and you want to check with your vet to make sure your pup’s teeth/gums are healthy and undamaged. Antlers certainly aren’t for every dog (especially overly-aggressive chewers) but for many pups antlers are an excellent substitute for the traditional dog bone.

Comments for Are Antlers Safe for Dogs?

  1. that#s the question of all questions. as much as I would like to buy him some antlers, or maybe even the whole elk, I’m always afraid that it ends not well… he is super greedy and he always tries to swallow raw hide bones or natural chews when it needs more than 2 minutes till the pieces land in his 7 stomachs :o)

  2. Jo Rhodes says:

    Any news on the skipping a toothbrushing for an antler front? My boys make the argument that, “they’ve brushed with this, see?” I say no , but I’m willing to skip one a week if we can get away with it.

  3. Emmadog says:

    We hear that sometimes from people when we talk about antlers, but Bailie is the one who really loves them and they have been great for her. Katie had no interest, and I’m an occasional antler chewer. As with any type of bone or chew, one needs to use common sense, monitor your dog and decide. We always have a couple lying around the house.

  4. I think Dakota is the only dog on the planet who doesn’t like them AT ALL. Someone told me to soak mine in chicken broth to see if he would chew one that way but I never did.

  5. Khoi found an antler on a walk and pranced around all day with it. For safety sake, my husband cut it down to large but manageable pieces that wouldn’t poke out an eye. Khoi wasn’t very happy about that. He picks up a piece and tosses it around, chews on it for a bit and abandons it. I guess he didn’t like his trophy rack being cut up.

  6. Jack has had antlers in the past and loves them. I stopped because I thought they were too hard on his senior teeth – but maybe I’ll try those soft ones you mention.

  7. Kismet says:

    li would take one out the doggie door and leave it in the dog run so Kaci (who won’t use the doggy door) couldn’t get to it. The ants would, however.

  8. Jeff says:

    My pup only likes to chew on denta stix and rawhide twist sticks. It has saved me a lot of trouble from buying new furniture and shoes. But I’ve spent two dental cleanings the past 2 years because he’s not a chewer. Water additives for teeth cleaning don’t seem to help nor does the occasional brushing.

  9. nerdgrl (Kim S.) says:

    Amara’s vet said that antlers were ok for her, even if she is a little pup. I held off until about a month ago (5 months old) and purchased one at yes, a big box pet store. I chose one that was already cut in half lengthwise so she could get at the marrow easily. All the marrow is gone and she’s slowly working on the antler part. We don’t let her have it (or her dental chew) when we’re not home. She still hasn’t lost her puppy teeth and we had hoped the antler and dental chews would help with that. Our hands and fingers, ah now, there are some tasty items she loves to chew!

  10. cafall says:

    We love antlers, although we’ve learned to be careful with them. I’ve had one dog chip a couple of teeth (we didn’t know at the time on core softness) and I also had one dog swallow a 6″ section lengthwise. Luckily my husband saw it and I managed to grab the disappearing end. Antlers are now only given with supervision.

    Monty and Harlow

  11. Excellent post! My father in law collects them every year and sends us a good supply so we’re quite lucky in that way! It’s good to note for any pet parents to small breed dogs- that you can find ‘split’ antlers too which have the middle marrow exposed and these are a great option!

  12. Cupcake says:

    Chewing? What’s chewing? I am not a chewer, so I am only familiar with the “December” types of antlers.

    Love and licks,

  13. Jesse says:

    Thanks for the info!

  14. raisingdaisy says:

    I love how Penny cuddles with her antler! And Eko’s sad face is a killer.

  15. Gia says:

    Hi Will! (You have one of my favorite names! One of my best friends is also an animal-loving Will, haha.) I just wanted to say thank you very much for this post, it was quite helpful. I’ve been wondering about antlers for awhile, and I did worry about them being too tough for teeth. I’d never heard about the different cores, so that part was very interesting. I really enjoy reading your blog because it’s obvious how much you love your dogs and that you would only make thoughtful and kind decisions regarding them. (Also, very sweet Christmas photo of Eko and Penny.)

    Do you think that the soft core antlers would be suitable for dogs that don’t have the best dental condition? (I took four of my family’s dogs to the vet this year for dental cleanings, which they had probably never had before, and two of the dogs’ teeth were not in good condition. 2-3 teeth had to be removed from each one of the two dogs. They are 7 year old Miniature Schnauzers.) Thank you so much for your time. We don’t have antlers available in Costa Rica, but I could potentially get some from the States at some point.

  16. fredrieka says:

    antlers are naturally tasty awesome

  17. DZ Dogs says:

    My dogs LOVE antlers!! We ended up switching to cow horns though because they are cheaper and last longer, Dante ate through a whole antler he found in my parents field in about a day and a half. 🙂

  18. i’m so glad your dogs love antlers, Preacher will chew on them but the big dogs don’t

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