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Can You Give Your Dog an Antler? Learn About Safe Dog Treats!

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

Deer antlers on a white background

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Chewing is a natural behavior that dogs engage in for various reasons. Giving dogs various chew toys and treats can help them relax and may clean their teeth. Antlers are natural dog chews that are popular for dogs to use but they can result in dental injuries.

As with all dog chews, it’s important to choose the right size and type and supervise your dog to prevent any accidents.

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Types of Antlers You Can Give Your Dog

The antlers you find in pet stores can come from several different sources. Deer antlers tend to have the hardest texture out of all the antlers. They come in many different sizes.

Elk antlers are also usually stocked in pet stores. Since they’re larger than deer antlers, you can often find them split in half or quartered. Unsplit elk antlers have a hard texture.

You may also come across moose antlers, which are softer than other types of antlers. Sometimes they’re sold in slices or discs to make them easier for dogs to chew.

beagle chewing antler
Image By: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

Possible Benefits of Giving Your Dog a Chew

Dogs can experience some benefits when chewing. First, chews can alleviate boredom and be a fun toy for them to play with on their own. A chew can be a good alternative that you can use to redirect dogs that engage in chewing household objects. They’re often more flavorful, and you can make them even more enticing for dogs by dipping them in bone broth or spreading peanut butter on them.

Antlers are shed each year and can be sourced from cruelty-free companies. They’re odorless and stainless, so don’t make a mess or leave behind any smells, like bully sticks or flavored chews. Antlers also last longer than many other chews. For these reasons, they are popular as a dog chew.

Risk to Health from Antlers

Unfortunately these benefits come with risk attached.  Antlers are harder than dog’s teeth and so it is common for dogs to break off parts of their teeth when chewing on antlers, these are called slab fractures.  They are painful tooth injuries and will usually result in the tooth needing to be removed by a veterinarian.

Dogs that regularly chew antlers are also likely to wear down their teeth due to the abrasive effect.

Unlucky dogs may also damage their mouths, esophagus or gastrointestinal tract by swallowing a sharp broken off piece.

Most vets do not recommend using antlers as a chew for your dog due to these risks. If you are looking for tooth safe alternatives then the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has a list of approved products.

antlers on a white background
Image Credit: Vera Larina, Shutterstock

How to Give Dogs Chews Safely

While dogs do benefit from chewing, any chew must be given safely to ensure your dog doesn’t get into any dangerous situations.

It’s important to choose the right kind of chew for your dog. Products that are too hard may end up causing dental damage. Chews that are too small can become a choking hazard or an obstruction in the digestive tract if swallowed.

It’s best to start with softer edible chews to prevent any tooth damage. The guidance is that you should be able to make an impression in the chew with your fingernail to ensure it is not too hard. Dog tooth enamel is actually thinner than that on human teeth.

Most importantly, never leave your dog unsupervised with a chew. Your dog should always be in your line of sight when chewing so you can step in immediately if they start choking. Sometimes, your dog might grind down a chew and end up with a sharp end. You should remove the chew and replace it if this happens.

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Antlers are chews that many dogs enjoy but they are not the safest for dental health. There is the possibility of your dog breaking a tooth with any kind of hard chew, antlers and bones included. Many people still prefer to give them as they’re less messy than other types of chews, and they don’t leave behind any odors. Just make sure to always supervise your dog when it’s chewing any kind of chew or chew toy to ensure its safety and toss out any pieces that become too small and risky to chew.

Featured Image Credit: Vera Larina, Shutterstock

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