Deer antlers may sound like the perfect treat—they’re natural, long-lasting, and tough enough to keep even the most powerful chewers occupied. However, the same features that make deer antlers appealing to dog owners can also make them dangerous for dogs. Read on to learn why you may want to skip antlers altogether.
Why Deer Antlers Can Be Dangerous for Dogs
Deer Antlers Can Damage Your Dog’s Teeth
On the surface, antlers sound fantastic for your dog’s dental health. Chewing helps reduce plaque and tartar buildup, keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy.
However, deer antlers are simply too hard for your dog’s teeth. Imagine chewing on a rock. It would damage your teeth, and the same goes for your dog. Over time, chewing on deer antlers can wear down your dog’s chompers, damage the enamel, and even crack or break their pearly whites.
Deer Antlers Can Splinter and Become Choking Hazards
Antlers are made of bone, and like all bones, they can break and splinter if your dog chews on them too hard. Unfortunately, dogs don’t know when to stop, and they could easily crack an antler into pieces small enough to choke on.
Even if your dog doesn’t crack the antler, it can still splinter into tiny sharp pieces. Since dogs will eat just about anything, there’s a good chance they’ll swallow these pieces without you even knowing. Once swallowed, the splinters could damage your dog’s digestive tract or even cause an infection.
Deer Antlers Can Harbor Bacteria and Parasites
Even if you buy the antler from a pet store, you have no way of knowing where it came from. It could have come from a deer that was sick with bacteria or parasites, which can then be passed on to your dog.
Some common parasites found in deer include tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. These parasites can cause a variety of health problems in dogs, including vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Bacteria are another concern. Deer antlers—especially those found in the wild—can harbor bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. These bacteria can cause serious illness in dogs, and, in some cases, they can be fatal.
Finally, antlers can also grow mold if left out too long. Mold is incredibly toxic to dogs. Since mold can spread inside the antler before becoming obvious, your dog might get sick without you knowing.
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Safer Alternatives to Deer Antlers for Dogs
If you’re just looking for a long-lasting chew toy for your dog, there are plenty of safer alternatives to deer antlers. Here are just a few:
- Bully Sticks: These are made from beef tendons and are a favorite among dogs because of their flavor. Bully sticks are tough but don’t splinter, making them a safer alternative to antlers. The entire thing is edible and easily digestible, too.
- Frozen Kongs: You can buy Kong toys that you can stuff with your dog’s favorite treats and then freeze. Kong also has extra-tough versions for heavy chewers. You can use frozen Kongs in several ways: as a treat, a meal, a crate-training tool, a teething aid, and more.
- Frozen Fruits and Vegetables: If you’re looking for a healthy, natural chew toy, try freezing some of your dog’s favorite fruits and vegetables. Carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, and bananas are all good choices. You can even stuff a Kong with a mixture of fruit and vegetables for an extra-tasty treat.
- Dental Chews: If you’re looking for something specifically for dental health, consider dental chews made of all-natural ingredients. These are designed to be gentle on your dog’s teeth while still helping to remove plaque and tartar. Look for ingredients like fruits and vegetables plus herbs like parsley and mint for nice-smelling breath.
Avoid giving your dog deer antlers. There are plenty of other chews out there that won’t pose the same risks.
If you do choose to give your dog an antler, make sure you supervise them closely and take it away as soon as they start to chew too aggressively.
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your dog for any signs of illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss after they start chewing on the antler. If you notice any of these signs, take the antler away and have your dog checked out by a vet ASAP.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay