Antlers and other hard chews can damage a dog’s teeth

Q: My 2 year old dog Ava started licking his lips and grinding his teeth while he was chewing on elk antler. Later, she turned down a small, soft treat that she had never made before. Is it possible that she broke a tooth in the antlers? Are deer antlers suitable for dogs?

A: Dogs should not chew on hard objects such as elk or antlers, dried cow hooves, dried pig ears, natural bones, hard plastic or nylon chew toys, ice cubes, or rocks. These objects are harder than a dog’s teeth and often cause them to break.

It sounds like Ava may have broken a tooth, inflamed the pulp, or damaged the tip of the root while chewing on the tough antlers, so you should schedule a visit to her veterinarian.

The teeth that usually break are the largest and most powerful in dogs: carnassials. Dogs have four fleshy teeth, one upper and one lower on each side, next to the molars.

Carnivores use their carnival to cut down on their kills – or their kibble, depending on the individual’s lifestyle.

Carnasal teeth have multiple deep roots, so when a tooth fracture exposes the sensitive pulp, root canal treatment or extraction may be required. Therefore, it is best not to let the dog bite hard objects to prevent fractures.

Veterinary dentists point to two rules for determining whether a chew has enough “give” that it won’t break a dog’s teeth. First, you should be able to indent the chew with your fingernail. You’ll see dents in the nails on hard rubber toys, but not on antlers, hard plastic, or nylon toys.

Next is the “knee” test. If you hit your kneecap with a toy and it hurts, it’s hard for your dog to chew. Personally, I prefer the nail indentation test.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council reviewed research data on chews and released a list of dental chews that are safer than deer antler and actually reduce tartar and plaque. Visit for a list.

Q: I love lily of the valley and have a perfect spot in my garden. My indoor and outdoor cats chew on my plants so I want to make sure this is safe for them. Yeah?

A: Unfortunately, lily of the valley is poisonous to pets.

The plant contains cardiac glycosides, which are chemicals that are highly toxic to the heart. All parts of the plant—flowers, leaves, stems, and especially the roots—are poisonous.

Even the water in a lily of the valley vase contains enough of these cardiotoxins to poison a cat.

The first signs of toxicity include vomiting, drooling, and occasional diarrhea. The cat then develops a slow heart rate, low blood pressure, and eventually an irregular heartbeat.

Loss of coordination, tremors, and seizures may also occur. Sometimes death is so sudden that no abnormal clinical symptoms are observed.

If the affected cat gets to the veterinarian quickly enough, the prognosis is good.

If you keep cats in it, you can enjoy lily of the valley in the garden. Talk to your veterinarian or contact me for instructions on making the transition.


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