You may have noticed that Deer Antlers have recently become a very popular dog treat and this has raised several questions about the benefits of them vs the dangers. So we thought we’d put together a quick summary to explain the benefits of deer antlers for dogs.
Antlers vs Horns.
Seems pretty simple right? Well, actually the makeup of antlers vs horns are very different.
Horns are found on animals such as cows, sheep, goats amongst many others, and have a bony core that grows in size as the animal ages. The bony core is covered with a sheath of keratin (similar to our nails) and never shed.
Antlers, on the other hand, are found on animals like deer and elk. Their make up is of true bone which is covered in a sort of hair called Velvet. The Velvet feeds blood (making them hot to touch), protein, vitamins and minerals through the antlers, which helps them grow quickly.
Antlers shed naturally once a year (once the velvet is scraped off by the animal on trees and alike) which coincides with the end of mating season and then regrow over the next 12 months - hence the male with the biggest antlers in mating season is usually top dog, (or deer) as it shows how physically strong and well nourished he is to be able to grow antlers so quickly.
Benefits of feeding antlers to your dog.
Antlers contain a number of vitamins and minerals that can provide great benefit for your dogs, such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron, and they are known for helping boost your dog's immune system and improving liver function.
They’re also completely natural with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, low in calories (as opposed to things such as pigs ears) and are odourless (no more smelly bones hanging around the yard).
When given correctly, Antlers are also a natural way to help keep on top of your dog's dental hygiene by scraping the tartar back on their teeth. And they’re long lasting, not a 5-minute treat!
Dogs chew. Whether it’s to release frustration, boredom or just because they’re happy doing so, you may find your dog chewing on sticks, a toy or even a pair of your shoes. If this is the case, give them something nutritious to chew on instead!
Are deer antlers safe for dogs?
As with any dog chew treats, we need to be mindful of the potential dangers they can cause. Although there’s no definitive proof that antlers cause teeth breakages, there are lots of people that have claimed them to be the reason.
Antlers, just like bones, are really hard and if not appropriately monitored there is a chance a tooth breakage can occur.
Here are some tips to ensure your dog can chew their antler safely:
- Choose the appropriate size for your dog. If they are too small it can more likely cause cracked teeth from biting down too hard and can be a cause for concern for choking.
- If your dog ‘goes to town’ on the antler the first time, make sure the session is kept short but give it back after 15 minutes or so and repeat until the dog calms down when given it. This will teach your dog that this treat will keep coming and that they don’t need to eat it all at once.
- Monitor your dog with the antler, especially in the first few instances.
- Only allow an inch of antler to be consumed each sitting (usually once a day) to give their jaw a break.
In short, deer antlers can be very nutritious for your dog as well as mentally stimulating when given appropriately. We recommend doing so every few months.
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