It’s said that nothing gets wasted out of a deer. While it’s debatable, this remains true, at least for deer antlers, whose purpose includes providing your dog with a new tasty chewy toy.
Many times I’ve longed for a natural treat for my furry friend. Not only do I dislike my dog’s habit of chewing on every leathery item he comes across, I also prefer treats that won’t make him fat and morbid.
Keep reading as I explore the benefits of deer antlers to canines, as well as some concerns about them as a dog’s chew treat.
Cutting Deer Antlers and Preparing Them as Dog Chew Toys
You can come by a deer’s antlers as a by-product of a deer hunt, or from finding a set that’s been shed. Dead deer that still have a profile pair also act as a good source of fresh antlers, just don’t let the dog in on the fact.
Depending on how you see it, cutting a deer’s antlers from its head can be another chore or an adventure in itself.
Since we are going to be feeding the antlers to the dog, there’s no point in taking too much care not to scratch them. Correct cutting angles are also for antlers that you’re looking to prepare for mounting, so two or three adjoining cuts will do.
Removing the Deer’s Antlers from Its Head
Remove the antlers from the deer’s head, by cutting them off. Items you will need for this procedure include;
- A hacksaw or reciprocating saw
- A hunting knife
- Extra saw blades
Position the deer’s head with the antlers pointing up and the jaw firmly set on the ground. Set the hacksaw horizontally over the buck’s eye sockets, and cut from the skull’s front towards the back.
You should cut the deer’s antlers at the base, allowing about two and a half inches from the rear of the skull. Place the saw three inches behind the base and make a vertical cut.
Ensure that you are giving clearance between the antlers and your saw, and move further back if that’s not the case.
Make the final cut perpendicular to the first, and see until the two cuts meet.
If there’s still connectivity after both cuts have met, make an additional cut or break the skull open to extract the antlers. Use your hunting knife to slice through any hide or flesh that’s still clinging to the base of the antlers.
By twisting both antlers, you can free them from the deer’s skull if the saw cuts haven’t already. You’ve now got the full set of deer antlers, whether or not they’re sitting on a base of the skull plate.
How to Proportion Deer Antler Cuts to Your Dog’s Taste
After harvesting them, antlers should be cut down to size, cleaned, and blanched for softening and sanitization. As a natural bone part, avoid boiling antlers too much as they could become brittle. See the full procedure on How to Whiten Deer Skull.
Making deer antler more dog-friendly will also involve sanding down rough edges to alleviate puncturing your dog’s mouth. Use hand tools, or a power saw to hive off pieces according to the size of your dog.
Be vigilant regarding your dog’s chewing habits, as you may need to adjust the size on the next cut.
Split Cut Deer Antlers
Cutting down the middle of fresh deer’s antlers will expose some bone marrow. These antler splits are best for puppies, mutts that are new to antler chewing, or older dogs.
While a terrific treat, split antlers won’t last long especially if they are soft and they’ve met an aggressive chewer.
Whole Cut Deer Antlers
For very hard chewing dog breeds, the thickness and less marrow in deer antlers give them a worthy challenge. Properly size the cuts to your dog’s breed, weight, and chewing trends, as they should last a moderate chewer a couple of months.
Cutting Deer Antlers According to Dog Size
Sizes by which to cut deer antlers fit for your dog’s chewing appetite include;
Pup and Small-Sized Dog Chews
Petite and small dogs that range in weight from five to 20 pounds are best given these antler cuts. Such dog breeds include Pugs, Shih-Tzus, Chihuahuas, Miniature Poodles, Spaniels, Papillons, Smaller Terriers, and Dachshunds.
Medium-Sized Antler Chew Cuts
These cuts are best suited to medium-sized dogs are those that weigh from 20 to 50 pounds. Such breeds include Border Collies, Scotties, Corgis, Beagles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Whippets.
The Large and Extra-Large Antler Chew Cuts
Large dogs weigh between 50 and 70 pounds, while extra-large canines will tip the scale from 70 to 90 pounds. These hounds include Australian shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Collies, and Huskies.
For extra-large breeds, you have Malamutes, German Shepherds, Akitas, English Sheepdogs, and Rottweilers.
Pros and Cons of Deer Antlers as Your Dog’s Favorite Chew
Why Antlers are Popular as Dog Toys
- Deer antlers last a long time. They are tougher than bone and won’t become dry or splinter easily.
- Apart from sparing your pet some nasty splinters in the mouth, throat, or stomach, you can cut costs of buying chews for your dog with deer antlers. Deer antlers should be carefully cut for a dog and given in moderation.
Why Deer Antlers May Not Be So Good for Your Dog
- After being gnawed on for weeks and sometimes months, deer antlers can become too toughened. This is detrimental as it can cause fractures to your dog’s teeth and bleeding gums.
- Sometimes, deer antlers may contain harmful bacteria. This can result in sicknesses like diarrhea for your dog.
Making Deer Antlers Safe for Dogs
To make deer antlers palatable and safe, soak them for a day or two in water or dog safe broth. You can also gently boil or blanch antlers to soften them and to eliminate any septic bacteria.
If your dog is an aggressive chewer, after that treatment, they won’t suffer tooth fracture or bleeding gums from deer antlers.