Feeding Raw Game Meat to Dogs

In this article I’ll go over some of the pros and cons of feeding raw game meat to dogs as part of the dog’s overall raw diet.

A raw diet means just like it sounds, feeding a dog a diet of raw meat and bones. Learn more about the basics of raw feeding here and check out our raw feeding FAQs.

While there are many health benefits of feeding your dog a raw diet, one of the downsides is how it costs a lot more than feeding dry food (kibble). 

For example, feeding one of my 65-pound dogs a store-bought raw diet costs about $400 per month! By comparison, it costs about $80 per month to feed the same dog a higher-end dry food.

Even if I buy the meat myself and make my dog’s raw food, it still costs about $200 a month to feed one of my dogs.

So, it makes sense to consider feeding raw game meat to dogs, including the raw organ meat and raw bones.

Raw game meat can supplement what you’re currently feeding your dog while saving you some money at the same time.

Is it OK to feed my dog raw deer meat? Or other wild game?

Yes and no. It’s not a simple answer. 

Dogs are obviously designed for eating raw meat and bones! They can handle more bacteria than we can, and their strong jaws and teeth are meant to easily crunch up, swallow and eat raw meat and bones.

So I’ll go over some of the pros and cons of feeding your dog various wild game so you can make your own decision about what’s right for your particular dog.

Unfortunately, it’s actually illegal in some areas to feed wild game to pets and livestock. And, of course wild game can also carry diseases and parasites. Feeding it to your dog does come with some risks. 

For this reason, it’s smart to do some research on the specific laws and risks based on where you live and where the wild game comes from. Use this article as a very general piece of your ongoing research.

Feeding raw game meat to dogs benefits

Here are some of the reasons to consider feeding your dog raw meat from wild game such as venison, elk or 

1. Save money on raw dog food by feeding wild game

You can potentially save a lot of money on raw dog food by feeding wild game meat. 

If you hunt large game yourself such as elk, you probably want to use that meat to feed your family – the human members of your family, that is. Unless you have very lucky dogs!

But, sometimes friends or family may have older elk or venison in their freezer from last year that they didn’t get a chance to eat up. Or maybe you have some yourself from the previous season.

This is a great option for dogs and that way the meat does not go to waste. It certainly won’t harm a dog to eat meat from a previous season if it’s been frozen.

Since it’s not legal for recreational hunters to sell wild game meat in most of the U.S., sometimes hunters will give their meat away.

You can check Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for people who are giving away their extra meat.

Even if your dog is not eating 100% wild game meat, it’s still a nice option to have once in a while as an additional protein source.

2. Wild game meat is more nutritious meat for your dog

Wild game meat is generally going to be better quality meat than anything you find in a grocery store! It’s wild, organic free-range meat! 

As an example, my family eats wild elk meat at least twice a week!

Elk roam freely and eat a natural diet of grass, bushes and trees. They don’t eat corn like most of the cows raised for beef, and they are not confined to a small area.

Elk meat has so many vitamins and nutrients and it’s lean meat high in protein. It contains vitamin B2 and B3, iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc, according to WebMD.

3. Wild game meat is a more humane food source

Yes, nature is very cruel and violent. But wild animals generally live happier lives than the cows, pigs and chickens raised for food in the United States.

Eating wild game ourselves and feeding it to our dogs is far more humane than supporting U.S. factory farming.

4. Variety of organ meat – wild game for dogs

Raw organ meat is an important part of feeding your dog a raw diet because of the nutrients found in organs. 

Organ meat should make up about 10 percent of your dog’s raw diet, according to most raw feeders. See our article on organ meat for dogs.

While it’s easy to buy a variety of muscle meat for your dog’s raw diet – such as ground beef or chicken quarters – it’s not easy to find a variety of organ meat.

If you know someone who goes deer hunting and processes the deer themselves, ask them to set aside the organs for your dog. Dogs can eat any of the organs from a deer such as the heart, liver or kidneys.

If you hunt yourself and normally take the animal to a wildlife processor, you could ask the processor to save the organ meat for you. (Some will and some will not.)

I go pheasant hunting with my dogs in the fall and I save the pheasant hearts and livers as a special treat for them! They love it!

5. Raw deer bones for your dog

My dogs find deer bones in the woods and chew on them pretty regularly – bones such as rib bones and jaw bones. I only take them away if the bones appear brittle and sharp from sitting out in the elements.

It’s safe to feed raw bones to your dog from wild game meat but I prefer not to give my dogs large, dense bones such as deer legs or any of the large elk bones. 

The reason is I worry they will crack a tooth on these harder bones, even if it’s a small risk.

Depending on your dog’s chewing style, you might also want to avoid giving them larger bones.

Deer and elk antlers are another option for chewing. You can buy farm raised elk antlers at some pet food stores, but giving your dog antlers from wild elk are even better! 

Again, know your dog’s chewing style as antlers are also very dense for chewing. They make a great option for some dogs and not others.

If you hunt birds like pheasants, ducks, geese, turkey or quail, you could save the carcasses for your dog after you’re done harvesting the meat for yourself. This makes a great “raw meaty bone” meal for your dog.

See our article: Can dogs eat turkey necks?

Risks of feeding your dog wild game meat

Feeding your dog wild game meat does have some risks. You will have to decide for yourself if feeding your dog wild game meat is right for you.

1. Wild game meat is not inspected

In the United States, the Food Safety Inspection Service ensures that all commercial meat, poultry and eggs are safe to eat. (This does not necessarily mean the meat is superior to wild game meat, but you can trust that you’re not going to get sick from it.)

On the other hand, wild game meat from recreational hunters is not inspected by anyone for quality or safety.

You have to trust that you’re getting the meat from someone who has handled and stored it properly.

2. Wild game can carry parasites

Any wild animal has the potential to carry parasites, so there is always some risk to feeding your dog any kind of wild game. 

You can kill most potential parasites in wild game meat by freezing the meat for a month before feeding it to your dog. I recommend you use a freezer set to 0 degrees. This still does not guarantee the meat will be free of parasites but it lowers the risk.

When in doubt, you could also cook the meat before feeding it to your dog. Yes, I realize this is not raw meat but even cooked wild game is healthier for your dog than any kibble or grocery store meat.

Some examples of parasites dogs can get from wild game meat include tapeworms (found in many animals) or trichinosis (most commonly found in wild boar or black bear).

Can dogs get trichinosis from raw bear meat?

Yes. Dogs and people can get trichinosis from the parasite trichinella most commonly found in black bear meat and also wild boar. 

If you decide to feed your dog black bear meat or wild hog meat, I recommend you cook the meat instead of feeding it raw.

The trichinella larvae can migrate and embed in the muscles, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. People primarily get this disease from eating wild game that is not properly cooked.

Here is a great article on avoiding trichinosis (for people) in wild bear and wild boar meat. Freezing the meat can make a big difference, but it is not 100 percent safe.

Thankfully, you generally shouldn’t have to worry about trichinosis if you are hunting deer or elk or birds such as pheasants, ducks, turkeys, etc.

See our article:

Will my dog get sick from raw meat?

Can dogs get chronic wasting disease from raw deer meat?

Chronic wasting disease is a disease caused by prions, which are infectious proteins, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) website. The disease affects the brain and spinal cord.

There is currently no evidence dogs can become infected with CWD, according to the AVMA. However, it is best to avoid feeding brain and spinal cord tissues from killed game to dogs. The four species known to be most susceptible to CWD are mule deer, white-tailed deer, Shiras moose and Rocky Mountain elk.

The CDC says that there is currently no evidence that CWD passes to humans. 

How to feed wild game meat to your dog

There’s nothing special about feeding raw game meat to dogs, except I would recommend freezing the meat for a month at a low temperature such as 0 degrees F. 

This will give you some peace of mind that most potential parasites have been killed, although there is no guarantee 

When in doubt, cook the wild game meat for your dog, especially if it is black bear meat or wild boar meat. Cooked game meat is still a healthy option for dogs!

Is deer meat too rich for dogs?

No, deer meat is not too rich for dogs. But remember it’s usually best to introduce all new foods slowly, especially if your dog has a sensitive stomach and the meat is fatty.

Avoid feeding deer sausage or jerky to your dog

If you receive seasoned jerky or salami from the game processor, avoid feeding this to your dog. The seasoning could upset your dog’s stomach.

What to do if your dog kills and eats a rabbit

If your dog kills or finds and eats a rabbit, squirrel, bird or other animal, he will most likely be fine. There is nothing to worry about. 

Yes, dogs can eat raw rabbit and squirrels and probably most other animals they happen to catch or find.

Dogs are meat eaters and they have acidic stomachs and short digestive tracts designed for eating raw meat and bones.

I live in the country and my own dogs will occasionally catch and kill a small animal. If you need to stop your dog from chasing squirrels or other animals, see our article: Stop my dog from chasing squirrels

I keep my dogs on a parasite preventative for the warmer months of the year to help prevent them from certain parasites. This won’t protect them from everything, but I feel better knowing it will work for a lot of common parasites such as tapeworms, hookworms and roundworms.

Should you feed your dog wild game?

Ultimately, this is your own choice! You have to weigh the pros and cons of feeding raw game meat to dogs knowing your specific dog.

In the comments, let us know if you’ve ever fed your dog wild game meat.

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