Can I Give My Dog A Deer Antler I Found In The Woods

Can I Give My Dog A Deer Antler I Found In The Woods?

Last Updated: August 18, 2023
correct answerThe Short Answer is:

No. It is not worth the risk of giving your dog a wild deer antler if you can buy a piece from a local shop or online store for the same price.

The purpose of this article is to explain the “Can I Give My Dog A Deer Antler I Found In The Woods?“.

Did you know that dog chews made from antlers are extremely popular?

Can I Give My Dog A Deer Antler I Found In The Woods

From one of your local walks you think you have found a useful shortcut an antler hack.

When you can get free antler chews on your local walks why buy ready-made antler chews for your dog?

What if you find an antler in the woods that you can give to a dog?

We’ll see.

Can I give my dog a deer antler I found in the woods?

No. It is not worth the risk of giving your dog a wild deer antler if you can buy a piece from a local shop or online store for the same price.

What are antlers?

The antlers are extensions of the skull composed of bone cartilage tissue skin and blood vessels.

Normally antlers are only found on male animals although they can also be found on female reindeer. 

A pair of purposes are served by antlers. 

The first purpose is to make a male animal more attractive and the second purpose is to use it as a weapon when battling for females. 

What animals have antlers?

Deer antlers come to mind when I think of antlers.

Antlers are not just found on deer though.

Moose reindeer and elk are other animals that have antlers.

Throughout the UK you will only come across antlers from deer.

Antlers from elk deer and moose can be found in the US however.

You can not find Caribou antlers unless you’re in Alaska since Reindeer (or Caribou) no longer inhabit Alaska in the US!

How do they lose antlers?

It is natural to shed antlers every year. 

The fastest-growing bone in all of the animal kingdoms is believed to be the ossicles. 

The bone remains quite soft as it grows. As it matures the antler becomes hard and mature. 

Why are “found” deer antlers dangerous?

The reason why it is not a good idea to let your dog chew on wild antlers found in a block of wood while you are walking is that there is one very good reason for that.

As a result you have no idea how old the antler is. 

The antlers for your dog that you buy from a shop are fresh- they were harvested from the deer only a few weeks earlier. 

Antlers found in the woods may be much older than you think.

Antlers that are older are more likely to be infected with nasty bacteria.

In addition older antlers are more brittle and as a result more likely to break or damage your dogs teeth when chewed. 

Fresh antlers vs old antlers – spot the difference

Age causes antlers to change color.

They are brown and white when still alive (on a deers head).

However as they drop off the head and begin to age they change from a brown and white color to a brown and yellow color. 

However how easy is it for a novice or newbie like you or me to truly tell the difference between fresh antlers and old or aged antlers?

Maybe the antler that you have found is “fresh as a daisy” but are you capable of telling the difference between a fresh and old pair of antlers?

Deer antlers vs bones

I think most dog owners have grown up with an image of a dog chewing a bone and we wouldnot question whether a dog should chew a bone or not.

To which the common response is “of course dogs should chew bones because it is their natural instinct.”

Similarly we could say the same about antlers as they are like bones so dogs can chew them just like they chew bones.

Dogs can benefit from chewing bones and antlers.

Firstly they get nutrients like calcium by chewing on bones and antlers.

In most cases wet and dry foods are complete diets that contain all the minerals and vitamins that dogs need. 

As a second benefit chewing bones provide mental stimulation to dogs. 

While one could argue that dogs would benefit from chewing on a Kong filled with food or completing an agility course or two. 

The true danger that bones and antlers pose to your dog is the potential damage they can do to his teeth and mouth.

Here are some shocking statistics for you.

Forget about antlers for just a moment 70-80% of all dogs show signs of oral disease by the time they are three years old.  

Approximately 10-20% of dogs will fracture at least one tooth during their lifetime. 

As bones and antlers are off the chewing menu whats on the menu now?

The best dog chew

This categorys winner is.

My opinion is that there is no obvious winner I am not convinced that one object is suitable for all dogs.

There are upsides and downsides to every chew toy or bone.

What about tennis balls? Tennis balls are great for my dog because they are soft and he loves them.

Unfortunately the yellow fur covering a tennis ball is quite abrasive for dogs’ teeth.

Wouldnot a nylon chew toy be fun? It is also abrasive to the dogs teeth because the nylon is so coarse. 

Therefore I would recommend giving your dog a variety of objects to chew on.

Little and often is the way to go.

You can give them a bone some days an antler some days and nylon chew toy the next. 

The way they chew is far more important than what they chew.

My two golden rules are as follows. 

1. Time 

You should only let them chew on objects for a short period of time such as 15-30 minutes 

2. Alone

When you are not around do not let them chew on anything.

In the event that a tooth breaks or they bite off more than they can chew and end up choking on it. 

Five steps to prepare antlers that you have found in the woods

While I advised you to stay away from the deer antlers you found in a wood you gave them to your dog regardless of my advice.

Are there any preparations you should make?

In order to make these antlers as safe as possible for your dog you should take four steps. 

Step 1: Healthy

A good antler is one that has only fallen off within the last few months as we mentioned earlier. 

Make sure that the antlers are hard and do not seem to be decaying or softening in any way. 

Additionally you can use the color test and the smell test. 

The antlers are what color? 

Anything that appears too yellow should be avoided.

What is the smell of antlers?

You should steer clear of them if they have a very strong or rotten smell.

Unless they are covered in deer poop and thats why they smell so bad! 

The next step is to determine whether they passed the health test. 

Step 2: Saw off sharp edges

Since I have banged on and on about antlers they are very hard.

Antlers should then be trimmed of their pointed ends.

Finding a saw or blade sharp enough to safely cut them is the biggest challenge with cutting them.

It is not an easy task.

There are a few suggestions in this forum thread including the use of a hacksaw or diamond blade on a tile cutter.

Step 3: Cut them to size

If the antler is large you will probably need to cut it down into smaller pieces.

The size of the collar depends on the size of your dogs mouth.

It might be too small for your dog to eat and swallow it whole (and risk choking) and it might be too large for him to chew.

Step 4: Wipe and smooth

Now that you have completed all the cutting you need to check your work.

Make sure your pieces of antler do not have sharp edges or splinters

Step 5: Boil and cool

The final step is perhaps the most important one for your antlers and that is to boil and sterilize them.

Place in boiling water for approximately thirty minutes.

After letting the antlers cool they are ready for the dogs!

Should you soften deer antlers for dogs?

What if dogs can not handle hard antlers? Wouldnot it be better to soften them?

You wouldnot want to risk your dog breaking or fracturing a tooth would you?

Unfortunately softening antlers does not make them entirely safe.

In contrast I have written a more detailed guide on how to soften deer antlers which you can read here.

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Amanda Dogs Trainer

Amanda (Author)

With over a decade of experience, Amanda is a distinguished dog trainer. Her expertise in canine behavior has transformed countless lives, fostering harmonious human-canine connections. Through compassionate and personalized approaches, she empowers owners to understand and connect with their furry companions, creating a legacy of joyful tails and transformed lives.

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Osvaldo Maciel (Content Reviewer)

Osvaldo Maciel, a stalwart in the field with 14 years of experience, is a revered dog trainer. His journey is defined by a profound understanding of canine behavior, shaping unbreakable human-canine bonds. Osvaldo guides owners to connect with their beloved pets, leaving an indelible mark of happiness and transformation. His legacy shines through the countless lives he has touched.

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