Posted on 04-01-2014
Are Antlers Good for My Dog?
As a veterinarian, I am often asked: “What can my dog chew on to help his teeth?” There are many choices available from denta-sticks to rawhides to bones to antlers. But, the question really should be: “are these actually good for your dog to chew on?!” Short answer: NO!
Since the beginning of February, 15 dogs presented to our hospital for routine examination wherein cracked and broken teeth were identified. Their owners told us that they have been sold these antlers as a way to keep the teeth clean. They are being told that wolves chew on antlers, so it's good for their dogs. Honestly, how many Wild Kingdom documentaries have you seen where the wolf is gnawing on the antler of their kill? Remember, wolves live only a few years (the average life span of wild wolves in Denali Alaska is 3-4 years.) We are trying to keep your pet's enamel in healthy for more than 15 years!
Deer and elk use their antlers to compete and fight during the mating season, so they are hard as stone. Chewing on an antler is no different than chewing a rock! Dogs can generate up to 450 lbs of pressure per square inch. When enamel and hundreds of pounds of pressure come together, something will give! When the enamel fracture is deep enough, the tooth can and typically does form a tooth root abscess. It is only a matter of time.
Chewing on items is generally an over-rated method of keeping teeth clean. Dogs prefer to chew with their back teeth rather than with the front incisors or canine teeth. The later are for ripping. They also tend to prefer a right or left side to chew. So chewing overlooks 2/3rd of the mouth. Tried and true care for teeth involves brushing at home and regular professional cleaning. This is the only way to control tartar above AND below the gum-line without causing damage. We strongly urge you to not give your dog antlers, bones or even rawhides. If you have, schedule an appointment with us as soon as you can to see if any damage has been done.
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