Before you buy a dog antler, know the risks

How a freelancing assignment made me concerned about dog toys

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Feb 25 · 5 min read
Photo credit: jameslee/Pixabay

Iused to see dog antlers all the time when I’d dog board or dog sit. I’d never paid much attention to them. My own dogs had them once upon a time. But they grew bored with them quickly and left them abandoned in a corner, so our family stopped buying them. That was then. As of February, when I see dogs with these antlers, I try to slyly hide them back in their toy boxes or boarding bags. I am not here to dictate what dog owners should and shouldn’t let their dogs play with, but I don’t feel comfortable with dog antlers around when I’m dogsitting or dogboarding. Here’s what happened.


As a copywriter, I do a lot of top 10/15/20/30 lists for an Upwork client. This kind of work can be very dry, but one of my top three favorite clients lets me pick and choose which topics to write about that I’m already interested in — as opposed to being assigned. And I chose dog antlers, thinking that it’d be an easy list to write up as a way to keep dogs busy while you’re away.

While Amazon affiliates do get a percentage if someone purchases a product through their links, that’s not my goal as a writer. My goal is to tell you everything you need to know about a product — both good and bad. If you decide to buy it anyway, that’s your right. And as I was writing up this top 15 list for dog antlers, I realized that this is a pretty dangerous toy if dog owners do not know what to look out for.

Here are four things you need to know before you purchase this product.

Veterinarians often get visits from dogs who have broken teeth trying to tear dog antlers apart. Pay attention to the suggested size from the manufacturer. If your dog is a heavy chewer and the dog antler is not recommended for heavy chewers, do not take your chances. If the dog antler does not split in half or large parts so your dog can get to the tasty marrow, and instead starts to splinter, get rid of these areas with sharp edges. They can get caught in your dog’s gums and possibly break a tooth if he bites down too hard.

Do not leave your dog unattended with a dog antler. Although dogs have great instincts and have impeccable hearing and vision, sometimes they don’t know when to leave well enough alone. Because dog antlers can be a choking hazard, cause dog teeth to break or chip, and hurt a heavy chewer’s gums, this is not a toy you can just leave your dog alone with. Put it on a high shelf or inside of a closed and locked cabinet when you are away. You do not want to let your dog go nuts with a dog antler when you’re not there to supervise. Countless verified purchase users have had to race their dogs in for emergency care from these toys.

You may not see the damage immediately. According to the American Kennel Club, “antlers that break or splinter can get lodged in your dog’s mouth, throat, or intestines, causing dangerous blockages that could require emergency surgery.” If your dog doesn’t show obvious signs such as choking or a broken tooth, you may not even realize that your four-legged friend has swallowed parts of the dog antler. Always keep tabs on how much of it has been chewed before and after the dog has played with it. Anytime you start seeing little pieces or splinters, get rid of them quickly. The goal is for the dog to be able to enjoy chewing on it, not swallowing it.

Be familiar with the manufacturer and avoid getting the first cheap dog antler toy. I’m not above a good deal. But if you’re an Amazon Prime member or someone who just loves a bargain price with free shipping, revisit Amazon’s Terms and Conditions. In a new PBS “Frontline” episode “Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos,” Amazon users may be overlooking the user agreement when they set up a new account. It says:

Third-party companies can sell their products on Amazon without the primary online merchant having to cover liability for faulty products. So if you buy dog toys on Amazon — dog antlers or not — that have not been tested for safety or durability, you will only be able to deal with that third-party company. And depending on how reputable that company is, it can just close its account and be long gone when the going gets tough. Meanwhile you’re stuck with the veterinarian’s bill. You may want to stick to a store where you can see all the warnings, all the safety tests and bring it back to a person instead of an unfamiliar Amazon seller.


Every dog is not going to have this problem. Clearly if I had two dogs — a Labrador Retriever mix (13 years) and a German Shepherd (9 years) — who never had any dental problems or even any trips for emergency care in the entirety of their lives, your dog may be just fine with dog antlers. But after creating this list, I couldn’t be more relieved that my four-legged girl and four-legged boy thought these dog toys were lame. Suddenly I appreciate them more for thinking knocking over the bathroom garbage cans were more fun!


Shamontiel is a dog lover to her core: 440 completed walks, eight dog-housesittings and four dog boardings at the time of this publication. Would you like to receive Shamontiel’s Weekly Newsletter via MailChimp? Sign up today!

Doggone World

For dog lovers, dog walkers and dog owners.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; part-time dog walker and dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 5x officer; WERQ dance and yoga enthusiast; Shamontiel.com

Doggone World

Let’s discuss all bark-related, (mostly) feel-good content for dog lovers, dog walkers and dog owners.

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