Are deer antlers safe for dogs to chew on? - Dr. Marty Becker

Are deer antlers safe for dogs to chew on?

Monday, Dec 15th, 2014 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Dogs will chew on pretty much anything – but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to let them!

One of my readers asked if a deer antler chew was a good choice for her dog:

Q: One of my friends gave my Cavapoo an antler chew. It seems kind of hard. Is it safe for him to chew on?

A: We all know how puppies love to chew, and many dogs continue the activity into adulthood. In much the same way as some people bite their fingernails or twirl their hair, some dogs turn to chewing as an outlet for their energy or a way to reduce stress, especially when they’re home alone. For other dogs, it’s simply an entertaining behavior.

Dog owners are always looking for the perfect chew toy: one that will be safe for the dog to chew, that will hold his interest and that won’t be destroyed too quickly. It’s not always easy to find that perfect chew. A real area of concern is broken teeth, especially with dogs who chew aggressively.

Excessively hard chew toys are a common cause of broken teeth in dogs. A broken tooth is extremely painful and can sometimes become abscessed. I believe that hard plastic or nylon chews, sterilized bones, cow hooves and antlers are too hard to be safe for most dogs. Rule of paw: don’t buy any chew toy that you wouldn’t want to be whacked in the knee with.

Instead, I recommend buying chew toys that have some flexibility or “give” to them, even for large, powerful dogs. Give big-time chewers large toys that don’t fit all the way in the mouth. It’s better to replace chew toys more frequently than it is to have to spend hundreds of dollars to have your veterinarian repair or remove a broken tooth. Hard chews such as deer antlers can also cause bleeding in the mouth or internally if they splinter and blockages if swallowed, two more reasons to avoid them.

Read more, including tips on keeping holiday stress levels low for you and your pets, in this week’s Pet Connection!

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