Are Antlers Safe For Dogs?

are antlers safe for dogs

Antlers for dogs are often given as a chew treat. They are a popular option for dogs that chew through normal plastic or fabric toys in a matter of minutes. Having something to chew is important for our dogs’ dental health, and to keep boredom at bay. But, antlers for dogs can cause more problems than they solve. In fact, chewing on hard products like elk or deer antlers for dogs can lead to dental problems like fractured teeth, and internal damage from splintering.


Antlers are actually a type of bone. In fact, they are the fastest growing bone in the entire animal kingdom. Antlers grow in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. Some are just small spikes, whereas others grow into huge multi-pronged shapes. The largest known antler span belonged to a now extinct giant deer – an impressive 3.5m!

Types of Antlers for Dogs

Lots of animals have and shed antlers. But, not all of them are popular choices to give to dogs.

  • Deer antlers
  • Elk antlers
  • Reindeer antlers
  • Moose antlers

Why Do People Give Their Dogs Antlers?

With the abundance of chew toys on shelves at pet stores, you might be wondering why people would want to give their dogs antlers.

There are a few reasons that people might choose antler bones for dogs. So, let’s look at a few in more detail.

Something Strong to Chew

One of the main reasons that people give their dogs antlers is that it provides something strong to chew on. If your dog is a strong chewer, you might find that he often destroys normal chew toys. Even those labelled as ‘durable’ or ‘indestructible’.

Antlers are bones, so they are very sturdy and hard to break. This strength comes with a big risk to your dog’s teeth, but we will look at that more in a moment.

Variety of Sizes

As we looked at briefly before, there are lots of different types of antlers. You can get deer antlers for dogs, elk, reindeer, and even moose antlers for dogs! People with big dogs can occasionally struggle to get appropriately sized toys. After all, you don’t want something your dog could choke on.

Many people think that large antlers are a good solution. But, in reality, antlers for dogs can pose just as much of a choking hazard as small toys.

Don’t Smell Bad

Regular dog food chews, or even some toys, can start to smell pretty bad when our dogs have had them for a while. Many people don’t experience this problem with antlers for dogs.

Chewing Helps Dental Health

A final reason why antlers for dogs are popular is that having something to chew on can help to clean your dog’s teeth. Studies have shown that a single dental chew each day can reduce plaque and odor.

antlers for dogs

Do Dogs Like Antlers?

Most dogs will enjoy chewing on and eating antlers. There are three main reasons for this. Firstly – taste. Dogs love the taste of antlers and bones! In fact, raw feeding, which involves giving your dog raw meat and bones, is increasingly popular as a diet.

Secondly, antlers contain lots of great minerals. This includes: calcium, phosphorus, crude protein, fat, and more. Thirdly, chewing can solve boredom. Our dogs can get bored pretty easily if they have nothing to do. But chewing on something is a great way to keep them occupied.

Are Antlers Safe for Dogs?

Unfortunately, antlers aren’t as safe as many people believe them to be. The three main reasons for this include dental health, internal damage, and oral punctures.

Dental Health

Chewing on something can help to keep your dog’s teeth clean. But, the problem with antlers is that they are just so hard. The firmness of antlers means that your dog could chip or fracture his tooth when gnawing at these bones.

In fact, studies have identified a link between dogs who chew on antlers and the number of fractured teeth. Damaged teeth can look chipped, cracked, or even have discoloration.

Internal Damage

Another reason that antlers can be a cause for concern is the potential for internal damage. Hard bones like antlers can split and splinter when your dog is chewing on them.

Your dog can easily swallow these splinters or chunks. But, they are often very sharp. So, as they travel through your dog’s digestive system, there is the risk that they can puncture something. These pieces can also become lodged in your dog’s throat or intestines and cause internal damage.

It can be hard to know if this has happened until your dog starts to show symptoms of internal pain or disruption. So, it is best to prevent the opportunity altogether and avoid antlers.

Oral Punctures

Antlers are designed to be used as weapons by deer and other animals. So, they are obviously sharp. Many antlers have pointy, protruding prongs. If your dog chews these at a poor angle, there is the risk that he could puncture his own mouth, or gums.

This can lead to bleeding, pain, and the need for veterinary assistance. Even if an antler doesn’t look sharp at first, it can become sharp as your dog gnaws and breaks pieces off.

Choking Hazard

One reason big dog owners like antlers is their size. Antlers can be huge, so big dogs can’t get the entire thing in their mouths.

Many people hope this will prevent choking. However, your dog will break off and swallow pieces of antlers as he chews. These pieces are often small enough to get lodged in your dog’s throat.

If these potentially sharp pieces don’t cause internal damage as we looked at above, they could just get stuck in places they shouldn’t. This can cause your dog to choke, or to experience other internal issues. Stuck pieces of bone may require emergency surgery in order to save your dog.

Are Antler Dog Chews Safe for Puppies?

Puppies don’t lose their baby teeth until they’re 4 months old. Even after this point, all of the issues that can affect adult dogs who chew on antlers can affect puppies.

If your puppy is teething, or you just want to find something for your puppy to chew on, there are plenty of great toys specifically designed for this.

Veterinary Opinions

While the majority of vets may advise you to stay away from antler chews and bones, the consensus is not 100%.

There is still some disagreement. Some vets will recommend that antlers and other hard bones should be avoided. But others may suggest that they are fine for your dog. This 2012 study into veterinary attitudes to canine oral care is a great example of this disagreement.

Your vet is the best person for you to speak to about your dog’s health. But, make sure you have all the facts before giving your dog any type of hard chew.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

Can Antler Bones Save You Money?

If your dog destroys every chew toy he is given, you might think that investing in a sturdy antler can save you money in the long run.

There is a level of risk here. Yes, your dog may be fine chewing on antlers, and it could save you the cost and hassle of replacing toys as frequently. But, if your dog does fracture a tooth, or worse, suffers from internal complications and damage, the veterinary bills will massively outweigh the money you spent replacing safer chew toys. And, it can also come at the expense of your dog’s health.

Overall, we think the risk is not worth it. The cost of veterinary surgery or help will be a lot more than the price of regularly replacing toys.

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. My dog loves his antler. If you want a softer antler try fallow. If your dog is old or has dental problems don’t give them an antler. This article claims to take both sides of the argument into account but relies heavily on anecdotal evidence on one side only. The problem with using only anecdotal evidence is that you only get negative views, people will complain when things go wrong. Having worked in the industry for a number of years I have only heard of 2 dogs with broken teeth from chewing on an antler and one of those was an elderly dog. This is out of thousands of antlers sold. Many vets surgeries sell antlers. This article is definitely not balanced in any way.

  2. Chewing on dog antler treats isn’t any different then dogs chewing on other bones or hard substances. They can break their teeth on anything, just like humans. When trying antlers for dogs, you just want to make sure you always monitor your dog while chewing (don’t let them chew too aggressively for long periods of time) and if it’s a puppy with puppy teeth or an older dog with older teeth, maybe try a less dense antler, it will be easier on the teeth.

  3. Will the antlers ever powder in the gut causing a bowel obstruction – similar to what dry, white bones can cause? My border collie loves them, but I’m still not convinced that they are safe even disregarding the posssible dental issues.

  4. I’ve been giving my puppy antler chews specifically for her size. I’ve done some reading as well and other articles disagree with this claim.. mostly due to the fact that certain breeds of deer antlers are specifically bad for dogs as they split in small pieces that could harm their intestinal tract. however, breeds such as elk antlers and mule deer antlers are safe for them to chew as they do not split in the same way. I must admit she enjoys the hell out of it! informative article of the risks, but as a purist, I’d rather her chew organic products rather than plastic as she tears into it and ingests toxins.

  5. Well done article, thank you for staying fact based!

    I find it interesting how so many vet sites will claim a pure natural antler is dangerous. Then turn around and recommend all these “approved” synthetic name brand products instead.

    I think I will stick to what mother nature has given us instead of nylon or plastic…

  6. I am so glad I read this. Was thinking about getting antlers for our dogs, but now I am rethinking it. We do have deer in our woods and they shed antlers (our GSD brought home a deer skull one day, how … sweet) so we wondered if we should let them gnaw on it a bit. I also saw Yak Milk treats. They seem pretty tough as well, UNTIL you microwave them, and then they are much more porous and break much easier. Like a sponge. Our shiba likes it very much. Our Labby didn’t like it until he saw the shiba eat it. What is your take? Only bought them once… still wondering about them.