The Dangers of Giving Dogs Deer Antlers in Holmdel, NJ

Preventing dental disease isn’t the only way you can protect your pet’s dental health. One thing we’ve been seeing surprisingly frequently at our animal hospital in Holmdel, NJ, is dogs coming in with teeth damaged from chewing on deer antlers! While it seems like a completely normal thing to give dogs deer antlers to keep their teeth clean (and keep them occupied), it’s not the best idea for their health or safety.

deer-antler-dog-holmdel-njWhat’s the Appeal of Deer Antlers for Dogs?

As far as chews go, deer antlers are all natural, containing no preservatives, fats, or empty calories. Furthermore, antlers are extremely tough, so your pup can happily chew away for hours, days, and even months on the same antler before it falls apart. Another bonus is that antlers contain calcium and other beneficial minerals.

But, despite these favorable aspects, deer antlers can pose some risks to your pet. Below, we detail our most pressing concerns about these chews and why you should opt for something safer.

They Can Fracture Your Dog’s Teeth

Deer antlers are made up of a very hard material. So hard, in fact, that it can crack or fracture your pet’s teeth. This is painful and can also put your pup at risk for an oral infection, and will need to be treated with an extraction or root canal.

They Can Seriously Injure Your Dog

Sharp fragments of the antler might break off while your dog is chewing and cause injury to their mouth, esophagus, and stomach and/or intestines if swallowed. Any kind of internal injury is very serious and needs to be addressed quickly by a veterinarian, as surgery may be required.

They Can Cause Choking

If your dog breaks off fragments of the antler while they’re chewing, they could accidentally swallow these pieces and potentially choke on them.

Signs of choking in dogs include:

  • Pawing at mouth
  • Gagging
  • Salivating
  • Coughing
  • Rubbing face/mouth with paw or against the floor

Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet is showing any of these signs. 

They Can Cause a Blockage

In a similar vein, swallowing the antler fragments can lead to an obstruction in the gut or bowels. Often, the only way to resolve a blockage is to perform emergency surgery to remove it.

In short, deer antlers can damage your dog’s mouth, jaw, teeth, esophagus, and gut. In some cases, the damage caused by deer antlers can even be fatal. But even if your pet comes away with a less severe injury, the cost of treating that injury could be steep—especially if it causes irreversible damage.

Safe, Healthy Alternatives to Deer Antlers

Every dog is different. Some dogs are happy with softer, edible chews, while others chew aggressively and thus prefer something tougher and longer-lasting. Regardless, if you want something that is safe for your pet and capable of helping with tartar control, we recommend consulting this list of products endorsed by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

We also ask that, if you still want to give your dog deer antlers or tendon chews, to supervise them while they’re chewing and dispose of the chew if you think it might become hazardous to their health. However, we highly recommend against using them altogether. We’d rather you err on the side of caution! We have seen a large number of dogs come in with broken teeth caused by deer antlers, and we don’t want your pet to end up in the same situation.

Our Holmdel, NJ, Veterinarians Are Here to Help

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s chew toys or treats, we’d be happy to help! Just call Bayshore Veterinary Hospital at (732) 671-3110.