The 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation shows that about 8.1 million people hunt deer annually.
And as far as big game goes, deer is the most popular.
If you are a hunter yourself, you might be wondering if your harvest would benefit your dog too, particularly the deer antlers.
The question is, are deer antlers better than bones? We can safely say that dogs love to chew on both bones and antlers.
While these two have similarities when it comes to the materials, antlers are generally tougher than bones. This means that they don’t splinter easily. They last a long time, and that spares you from spending more money on buying chews for your pet. However, antlers do come with disadvantages too. Since they tend to be very hard, they can cause your dog’s gums to bleed and may even fracture his teeth. Plus, they may have dangerous bacteria.
On the other hand, while your furry friend can also enjoy chewing on bones, some issues may arise too. They could splinter in shards and may cause serious problems with your pet’s mouth, throat, and intestines.
How to soften deer antlers for dogs?
Deer antlers can be softened a little bit by soaking them in water for about 24 to 48 hours. You can also submerge them in a dog-safe broth. This will make it much easier for your dog to chew on them, and may also help avoid gum bleeding or tooth fracture, especially if your pet tends to chew aggressively.
Should you soften deer antlers?
Like what we have said above, softening deer antlers would make it easier for your dog to chew on them. However, it is not recommended that you get the antlers too soft as that will only result other issues.
As your dog bites or chews on them, they may splinter like cooked bones. They can also break into pieces. And if your pet swallows a huge piece by accident, that could lead to intestinal blockage, which is very dangerous.
Can I give my dog a deer antler I found in the woods?
Deer lose their antlers naturally. This is why you may see them in the woods. However, you should never attempt to give your dog wild-shed antlers as they may already be old, and it is likely that they do have bacteria on them. This can cause diseases and expensive treatment. It could even kill your dog.
If you are a hunter yourself, it would be better to give your dog an antler from a freshly-harvested deer. Or, you can also get one from the store. Although most sellers clean the antlers, it would still be wise to try to sanitize them yourself by soaking them in boiling water for about an hour, and then transfer to cold water before finally giving to your pet.
Can dogs eat the whole antler?
No, it is never a good idea to allow your dog to eat the whole antler. Take note that antlers are very rich in protein and amino acids. Too much of these can make your dog’s stomach upset, and he may suffer from diarrhea. And also, if you see that the antler is getting smaller, enough for your pet to swallow, it is highly recommended that you discard it. If your pooch managed to swallow it and it is still a huge chunk, that could lead to choking, as well as blockage or perforation of the esophagus. It can do the same with your dog’s intestines.
When buying a deer antler for your pooch, always consider the size. If your dog is a small breed, then a split antler will work just fine. But if you have a large dog, get him a whole antler.
How long do deer antlers last for dogs?
The answer to this depends on several factors, which include the size and cut of the antler, the hardness of its core, and, of course the size of your dog and how aggressive he is when chewing.
Typically, a deer antler lasts anywhere from six months to a year. But then again, it could also last in just a few days or weeks if your dog is an aggressive chewer. It is then important that you consider the above-mentioned factors when getting an antler for your furry friend.
Why do dogs like antlers?
Dogs, in general, are chewing machines. They would chew on just about anything that they could get their teeth into, especially when they are teething. Chewing is their way of relieving the pain and discomfort. This is one reason why canines love antlers. They are hard, long-lasting, and they also provide nutrients. In short, antlers satisfy a dog’s craving to chew. They find this type of treat fascinating because they last long enough.
Another thing that makes antlers interesting for dogs is they come in various sizes, shapes, and texture. But to be on the safe side, never give your pet something that is too small for his size, so he won’t try to swallow it as a whole. It is also crucial that you monitor your pup when he chews on antlers.
What age can puppies chew antlers?
While it could be tempting to give your teething puppy an antler to chew on, that is actually not a good idea. If your dog still has baby teeth or if his adult teeth haven’t fully erupted yet, giving him a deer antler, which is hard, could cause various problems. It could injure his teeth and gums. With this in mind, it would be best to wait until your dog is at least six months old. By then, he should have all his adult teeth, which are much stronger.
If you are giving your puppy an antler for the first time, try to observe and see how he responds to his treat. Does he like it? Does he grab it right away? Is he being aggressive to it? If the answer to all of these is yes, then you need to closely monitor your dog. Why? Because if he is really into the antler and he is chewing on it non-stop, it may not take that long for him to reduce the size. And if that happens, get rid of the antler and replace it with a bigger one to avoid accidents.
Can dogs be allergic to deer antlers?
The good news is, deer antlers are considered non-allergic. So far, there is no evidence that canines can be allergic to this type of treat. You don’t have to worry about your dog getting allergies from antlers. Even if your puppy is allergic to venison, antler, which is a bone, is completely safe for him. The only thing that you should watch out for is when the antler gets small enough to fit into your dog’s mouth and swallow it. This is when antlers can become dangerous. Again, it is extremely important that you pay close attention to your dog as he chews on his treat.
Alternative to antlers for dogs
Although a deer antler is safe for dogs in general, there is always an exemption. What if your dog doesn’t want it? What if he already had it for a few months and he still hasn’t touched it? Then you have to look for another option.
Additionally, just like rawhides and bones, antlers come with disadvantages too. And most of the time, it is their hardness that can create some problems. So, as a dog owner, if you feel like your pet is not safe chewing on one (particularly if he is still teething), you need to find a good alternative. You can find numerous products on the marketplace that have a little bit more flexibility than antlers. You can consider buying bully sticks, milk chews, edible dental chews, trachea chews, fish skin sticks, tail bones, as well as beef, lamb, or pig ears. But take note that each of these has their pros and cons as well.
When choosing the best chew treat for your dog, it would be best to go for something that doesn’t fit all the way to your dog’s mouth. This should help reduce the risk of choking and obstruction, particularly for dogs that are too aggressive. If you are not sure what to get, you can consult your veterinarian. He should be able to recommend what’s best for your pet.
Deer antlers are a great treat for dogs. They are harder than bones, so you can be sure that they would last longer. They are an excellent source of protein as well. Plus, they can help address a dog’s annoying habit of chewing on almost anything around your home. But just like anything else, it has downsides too. So to keep your dog safe when chewing on an antler, monitor him. Make sure that the antler is sanitized. And if it gets small enough for your dog to swallow, throw it away.
² Photo by Tandem X Visuals on Unsplash
⁴ Photo by Julie Corsi on Flickr
⁵ Photo by Alex Beattie on Flickr
⁶ Phoyto by Amanda Hirsch on Flickr