Are Goat Horns Safe For Dogs? (Answered By Vet Tech)

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Chew toys are one of those things that will probably always be controversial in the dog world. People and dogs all have their own preferences and experiences with different chews.

For example, natural chews have been growing in popularity recently as dog owners try to feed their dogs less processed foods and treats. Goat horns are one chew that has been around for a while and is still popular today.

But, are goat horns safe for dogs?

Even though goat horns are a natural unprocessed chew, they’re not safe for many dogs. They’re hard enough to fracture teeth if chewed aggressively. Small pieces can break off of them and cause internal issues. While some dogs might do well with goat horns, other dogs may end up injuring themselves.  

In this article, we’ll give you an unbiased answer to the question “are goat horns safe for dogs?”  We’ll talk about whether goat horns are safe to eat and chew and what some better alternatives might be for your pup.

Why Do Some Dogs Chew So Much?

Before we get into our goat horn debate, we want to explain why it’s important that your dog chews.

Chewing is an instinctual behavior for dogs. It’s mentally and physically stimulating. Chewing helps dogs keep their jaw muscles strong. Chewing might even help your pup keep their teeth clean by scraping off built-up tartar.

If you have a dog that chews destructively, it’s important to provide them with plenty of appropriate chewing options. Some dogs will chew anything in sight like drywall and even door frames! Dogs won’t stop chewing but they can be taught what is acceptable to chew and what isn’t.

What Are Goat Horns Made Out Of?

Goat horns are structures that grow continuously throughout a goat’s entire life. Unlike deer antlers that are shed annually, goats only have one set of horns. Luckily, most goat horns available for dogs are a byproduct of the agriculture industry so goats aren’t hunted merely for their horns.

Since they’re permanent it might not be a surprise to find that goat horns are made up of an outer layer of keratin with a core of bone.  These horns have to withstand incredible forces and are naturally very tough. If you didn’t already know, keratin is a protein that is also what makes up our hair and fingernails.

Are Goat Horns Digestible?

By the time goat horns make it to your dog, they’re made up of a hard keratinous shell with bone marrow inside.  The bone marrow in a goat horn is highly nutritious and digestible.  Unfortunately, the hard keratin is not.

Most mammal stomachs lack the enzymes to effectively and efficiently break down keratin. If your dog ends up with a piece of goat horn in their belly, it won’t be able to digest it.

At best, it will pass through your dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cause painful poop. At worst, an undigested piece of goat horn might cause tears or blockages in the intestines.

Are Goat Horns Safe To Chew?

As we mentioned earlier, it’s hard to say that goat horns are safe to chew.  With so many potential issues, you would really need the perfect scenario to feel comfortable giving your dog a goat horn.  Even so, these horns aren’t useless.

We’ll talk about the pros and cons of goat horns now so that you can make an informed decision about them in the future.

Are Goat Horns Good For Dogs?

There are some good things about goat horns, otherwise, they wouldn’t be so popular. Here are some of the redeeming qualities of goat horns as a chew.

1. They’re Nutritious

One good thing about goat horns is that they’re nutritious.

Although the outer shell is composed of just keratin, the inside of the horn is made of bone and bone marrow. The bone in a goat horn may be rich in minerals like calcium and phosphorous while the marrow is a nutritional powerhouse. Bone marrow is full of vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins.

While they’re no substitute for a good meal, goat horns definitely are one of the more nutritious chews you can find for your furry friend.

One thing to consider is that the thing that makes these horns healthy is always what makes them smell so bad! Bone and marrow don’t smell good and once your dog starts chewing and moistening the tissues, it smells even worse!

2. They’re Long Lasting

Another thing that’s great about goat horns is that they’re pretty long-lasting. Whether you have an entire horn or a just piece of a large one, most dogs will take days to finish a horn.

For dogs that seem to chew everything, like rottweilers, this can be a blessing, finding a durable chew toy that your dog is also interested in isn’t easy. A goat horn will last a long time and save you from the trouble of giving your dog a new chew toy every day.

3. They’re Natural

The last pro about goat horns is that they are all-natural. Many chews have ingredients and preservatives that dog owners don’t like to see. The ingredients in goat horns: goat horns.

Goat horns are minimally processed and aren’t usually coated with anything. The highest quality goat horns won’t have any additives. They definitely don’t have any plastic pieces or rubber for dog owners who don’t love those materials.

Less processed foods and treats are undoubtedly better for dogs and in this category, goat horns are winners.

Why Can Goat Horns Be Dangerous For Dogs?

So goat horns can be good for dogs because they’re nutritious, long-lasting, and all-natural. Despite these accolades, we’re still not entirely pro-goat horn. These horns are dangerous for certain types of chewers and we’ll explain why now!

1. They’re Hard Enough To Crack Teeth

Because goat horns are made of tough keratin and bone, they’re hard enough to do some serious damage.  Even though your dog’s teeth are strong, they’re still at risk of chips and fractures.

Strong dogs are able to bite down very hard. For example, one of the strongest dogs, a Cane Corso has a bite pressure of 700 pounds per square inch. If a Cane Corso bites down that hard on a tough material, they could easily hurt their teeth.

While you might not own a Cane Corso, there are other breeds that have surprisingly strong bites. If you’re not sure you can check your dog’s bite force on our list here.

A fractured tooth is no joke and can cause serious medical and dental issues for your pup. No matter what a broken tooth will need to be extracted which is both costly and stressful.

2. Small Pieces Can Break Off And Cause Injuries

Probably the most serious issue that can arise from letting your dog chew a goat horn is the danger that small pieces can break off of the horn. These small pieces of keratinous horn or bone that splinter off will be very hard and very sharp.

Unfortunately, your dog might continue to chew on or swallow these tiny shards. The sharp edges of these pieces can puncture or lacerate the roof of your dog’s mouth or gums. If they swallow the piece whole, it can do even more damage.

A sharp piece of goat horn might cause a more serious problem like a blockage or obstruction. Gastric obstructions are caused by undigestible objects going through the digestive tract. These objects can get lodged in the intestines and cause a backup.

Symptoms of gastric obstruction are vomiting, lethargy, fever, and pain. Obstructions are never good and can often end with a vet visit and abdominal surgery.

Can Dogs Eat Goat Horns?

So, can dogs eat and chew goat horns?

Even though some parts of the horn are indigestible, dogs can chew on them. And many dogs can do so safely if supervised. However, just because they can chew on them doesn’t mean that they should.

While goat horns have some benefits, they’re risky. If you do decide to give your adult dog a goat horn, you’ll need to supervise them at all times while they’re chewing on it.

Can Puppies Eat Goat Horns?

If you have a puppy around, goat horns are out of the question!

Even though puppies do plenty of chewing, puppy teeth are small and fragile. Puppy teeth aren’t hard enough to go up against a goat horn and may chip or fracture.

When puppies are teething, they should be offered plenty of soft objects to gnaw on but should never have anything as hard as bone or a horn.

How Can You Tell If A Chew Is Safe?

So, how can you check for yourself if other chews are safe or not?

There are a few steps you can take when picking out a chew toy. Taking a minute to test the new toy might save your dog’s life and we highly recommend considering our “rules” listed below. Once you know the rules, you can make an informed decision about which toy will be the best for your pup.

1. Check The Hardness

The first and most obvious thing you’ll want to check on each of your pet’s toys is the hardness of the toy.

Mostly, we’re concerned about toys being too hard. If a toy is too soft for your dog, they’ll just tear it up quickly. In that case, you’ll need to keep a close eye on them and make sure that they don’t ingest any of the soft materials that made up the toy.

If a chew toy is too hard, it has the potential to chip and crack your dog’s teeth. To test if a toy is too hard you can simply grab a coin and press it into the side of the toy.

If there is a temporary indent on the side of the toy then it’s unlikely that the toy will be able to break your dog’s teeth. But, if the coin doesn’t leave a mark, the toy is probably a bit too hard.

2. Make Sure It’s The Right Size

Getting the right size toy for your dog is the second thing to think about when picking out a chew.

In this case, toys that are too small can actually be more dangerous for your furry friend than toys that are too large. Small toys may be ingested accidentally and cause blockages. Small toys can also get stuck around your dog’s teeth or lower jaw.

Usually, a goat horn won’t be too small for your dog. Sometimes, you can find goat horns that have been cut up into small circular pieces. You’ll want to be careful about the size of these circles. Unfortunately, the perfectly wrong size of these can get painfully stuck on your pet’s lower jaw.

Large toys won’t usually be dangerous but if a toy is too large a dog will usually lose interest in it. Toys they can’t easily carry around or get their teeth on just won’t interest them as much.

3. Look At The Ingredients And Coatings

The third criteria to keep in mind while picking out a new dog toy are the ingredients and the coating.

We’ll put it this way: the fewer ingredients, the better. There are fewer rules and regulations based on dog treats and food as compared to human food. When you buy a chew toy, try to look for the ingredients. Often, you won’t be able to find them or all of them.

Remember that your dog will be slowly ingesting this chew and you want it to be made of safe ingredients. In this category, goat horns are a clear winner.  Goat horns are almost 100% natural and minimally processed.

4. Think About The Way Your Dog Chews

The last and most important rule for picking out a chew toy is to think about your dog and its “chewing style.” Is your dog a mellow chewer who will sit with the same bone for hours?  Maybe they’re more aggressive and tend to break or tear your average toy.

You always want to get a toy that is durable and won’t break up into pieces when your dog chews it. That “perfect” toy is going to look very different based on your dog’s breed and individual personality.

Safer Alternatives For Chewing

There are plenty of better alternatives for goat horns. While you might be wondering about cow hooves and buffalo horns, they actually present the same problems as goat horns do.

Some of the safest alternatives we love are bully sticks, KONG toys, and frozen carrots.

Bully sticks are great chews that trainers and owners recommend. They’re sticks of beef muscle that can be chewed on slowly. KONG toys are great durable rubber toys that can entertain dogs for hours. They come in different sizes and hardnesses so you can find the perfect match for your dog.

If your dog loves eating carrots, try freezing them to give your dog an even longer-lasting chew.

Of course, not all dogs enjoy eating frozen carrots like the doggy in the video above, so you might need to try kong toys or bully sticks instead.

Final Thoughts

Goat horns aren’t guaranteed to hurt your dog, but we can’t guarantee that they’re safe either. While they are beneficial in some ways, they can hurt your dog’s teeth and cause issues in their GI tract.

If you do decide to give your dog a goat horn, make sure you supervise them closely. And if you’re not married to the idea, try out a safer alternative instead!

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