Dogs have been chewing on antlers probably as long as they have both existed, but only recently can city dogs get their teeth on them. Pet Expertise was one of the first companies to offer antler dog chews, and they remain one of our biggest sellers. We get tons of wonderful feedback from happy dog owners. Here is a bit of what we have learned about them. Below we will explain about antler biology, where we get our antlers, why antlers make great chews, how to keep your dog safe with his antler chew and how to get the most out of your antler dog chew.
Antlers are unique to the deer family and are composed of a bone-like material which regenerates each year and branches out. They grow on the heads of more than sixty kinds of deer, including moose, reindeer, caribou, and elk. Antlers grow only on males (except for caribou females which also grow antlers), who use them as weapons to fight other males for leadership of the herd or for possession of a mate. Antlers used as dog chews generally come from deer and elk. Moose antler is also available but because it is so flat it does not make an ideal dog chew.
Deer grow a new pair of antlers each year from the time they are a year old. Antlers begin as layers of cartilage that slowly mineralize into bone. They are soft and easily damaged until they completely mineralize in late summer. Antlers grow very quickly - faster than any other kind of bone - up to one inch per day during the summer! As they get larger they begin to branch out and are covered with a thin skin of fine fur called velvet. At this time the blood that flows to the antlers stops, and then they begin to harden. When the antlers have reached their full growth, the protective velvet covering dries and the deer will rub the velvet off on trees. Finally in the winter, the antlers fall off, but with each successive year's growth, the antlers branch into more points until the deer has reached his prime.
The hardened antlers are composed of calcium, phosphorous and as much as 50 percent water. Antlers are truly amazing structures. Biologists are studying antlers in hopes of learning the secrets of fast cell growth, which may unlock cures to various forms of cancer.
Pet Expertise's antler chews come to your dog by way of either natural shedding or from deer and elk that have been hunted by sport hunters. These are deer that live full lives in the wild and are hunted according to regulations. The animals are not hunted solely for their antlers, of course! We have found that dogs prefer chewing antlers that are fresh, not bright white and brittle.
Antlers vary in color from a grayish beige to almost white. The shape can be straight to branched, thick or thin. In the center of the antler is a softer portion that is tastier to dogs and is similar to marrow. Some antlers are softer than others as well and you may notice that your dog chews one antler faster than another one. This variation in antler chews makes it ideal to give your dog several, as they will all be like different chews to your dog.
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Antlers make excellent dog chews because they are made of a bony material and so are hard, long-lasting, interesting to the dog and not smelly or staining. They are similar in hardness to a Nylabone, but tastier and healthier. Not all dogs will love chewing every antler. Older and picky dogs are generally not as interested in chewing antlers unless it happens to be a really "good" one (humans can not tell the difference!). The dogs that appreciate chewing antlers the most are young dogs and dogs that just love to chew. Chewing antlers is very good for dogs in many ways. It helps keep their teeth clean, and it expends energy and keeps the dog out of trouble and out from under foot. Antler chews are also full of nutrients such as calcium.
Like any dog chew, you do need to be careful when allowing your dog to chew on an antler. The main concerns are breaking a tooth or choking on the antler chew. To prevent these things from happening, be sure to supervise your dog's antler chewing. Do not allow him to bear down forcefully with his molars on the antler chew and do not allow him to chew on a piece that is of a size he could choke on. Dogs do need to chew and, since every chew has its dangers, it is important to be as careful as you can while still allowing your dog to chew. What you want to see is that the dog chews the antler and wears it down very slowly. Most antlers will last your dog weeks or months. (More notes in tips below.)
You can feel good about giving your dog an antler chew from Pet Expertise. These come from healthy, free-ranging deer that live full, natural lives. Antlers are free of packaging and processing. They are made in the USA. Pet Expertise guarantees that your dog will love the antler or you can send it back to us for a refund (unchewed antlers only, please!). We have the best selection of antlers, lowest prices and low shipping charges.
Recently, as antler dog chews become more popular, antler is getting more scarce. Antler chew sellers are popping up all over and they are looking to sell the cheaper, low grade antler to make more profit. Beware of these antlers which are old, brittle and can crack and splinter when chewed. I was even told by one of these sellers "It doesn't matter, dogs are indestructible!". Of course, we disagree and continue to strive to find the highest quality antler because it makes much safer and enjoyable chew. We purchase fresh, grade A antler from USA sources only and that is then carefully cleaned and cut for your precious dogs to enjoy.
The problem with split antlers: We have considered selling split antlers for dogs that prefer to have easy access to the inner marrow. The problem with this is that it makes the antler unstable and more prone to cracking and splitting. Therefore we are uncomfortable selling them as a safe chew and you will not find split antlers from Pet Expertise for this reason.
Antlers chews make wonderful chews for dogs, but just like any dog chew it is important to be careful and to supervise your dog. Here are a few tips to help your dog to enjoy the antler chew and keep him or her safe.
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~ Jess, Owner and Dog Trainer