Can Dogs Eat Deer Meat? Pros & Cons Of Feeding Dogs (Raw) Venison

Updated: August 30, 2023

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Raw deer leg and  raw Venison safe for dogs to eat

Whether your dog is allergic to other common protein sources or you want to give your canine companion the best food possible, you may consider feeding them deer meat.

Also known as venison, deer meat is a novel protein source many people see as a quasi-delicacy! It can be more difficult to get your hands on if you live in an urban area, but raw venison is plentiful in many parts of the country.

Finding a great supplier only takes a little digging, even if you don't live in a rural area.

Venison is a great protein source, and many commercial dog food products use it. From dry kibble to dried jerky, dog food manufacturers love to utilize venison. But can dogs eat raw deer meat?

Whether or not venison is a safe and healthy choice for dogs is a point of contention within the dog community. Some swear by it, while others say there are many risks. So, what's the truth?

Is Venison Good for Dogs? The Benefits of Deer Meat

We'll cut to the chase:

Deer meat is a fantastic protein source for most dogs. Canines are carnivores, and many experts believe that venison is much closer to the foods your pup's wild ancestors ate than other proteins found in dog food. 

Deer are game animals, and their meat is a valuable source of sustenance for wolves and wild canines around the globe.

Protein is the single-most-important macronutrient your dog needs, and venison has plenty of it. Not only that, but the animal's organs can also serve as a source of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.

Still not sure? Let's look at the benefits venison provides.

Novel Protein Source

Minced deer meat out of a meat grinder can be beneficial for dog nutrition

One of the biggest perks of providing venison is that it's an unusual protein source. You can easily source it and find dog food formulas containing venison. But compared to ingredients like chicken or beef, it's less prevalent.

Why does this matter?

Dogs with allergies to common protein sources need something different. Venison can be a fantastic alternative if your dog has unwanted reactions to foods like chicken or beef. It can also help with grain allergies and dogs with stomach sensitivities.

Unlike chicken and beef, deer aren't commercially farmed on a large scale. Commercially farmed animals often eat grain, leading to stomach issues with dogs that can't handle grain. That's not the case with venison, making it a great universal option for dogs with various allergen sensitivities.

The protein content of venison is lower than other meats. One pound of raw venison contains approximately 104 grams of protein. Meanwhile, a pound of raw chicken breast has roughly 136 grams.

The lower protein content could be an issue if your dog needs a high-protein diet. But for most pups, venison will do just fine. It's a novel protein that can address many allergy issues while giving your dog all the healthy proteins they need to stay healthy.

Lean Protein

Venison can be a game-changer if your dog needs to lose weight or struggles to maintain a healthy body condition. It's a lean protein. In a 100-gram chunk of venison, there are only 3.3 calories of fat. 

Furthermore, studies show that deer meat contains approximately 75 percent less saturated fats and unhealthy cholesterol than beef. As a result, it's good for heart health and weight management!

There is some fat in deer meat, but it comes as omega fatty acids. Venison is rich in omega-3s, making it an excellent choice for heart health, combating cell oxidation, and keeping the skin in good shape.

Nutrient Rich

When you get deer meat from a supplier, it may come as pure muscle meat or contain organs. Either way, your dog is getting a ton of beneficial nutrients.

Venison is rich in B2, B12, and B6 vitamins. There are also many minerals like selenium, zinc, copper, etc. Usually, you'd have to provide plant-based materials to get those.

While that's still a good idea, your dog can eat several micronutrients in the deer meat alone to stay healthy. Many say that deer meat helps prevent issues like anemia while boosting the immune system.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Deer Meat?

Consuming raw meat might sound gross to humans, but many say it's the preferred choice for dogs. Canines have highly acidic stomachs that can easily process raw meat like venison. The acidic environment can prevent dangerous bacteria that would lead to illness in humans from causing issues in dogs.

While you could cook the deer meat, raw is often the better choice. Cooking meat takes away some of its nutritional value. It eliminates important nutrients, taking some of those sought-after benefits away. More and more dog owners are shifting away from commercial kibble in favor of raw diets, and venison is a good place to start.

Can Dogs Eat Deer Bones?

Raw deer shank

Another common debate dog owners have the safety of deer bones. Talking about feeding your dog the bones of any animal will likely draw differing opinions.

For the most part, raw deer bones are perfectly fine for your dog. Bones are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and more. They also provide more muscle-building amino acids and can do wonders to keep your pup's teeth clean. Plus, dogs love them!

The most important thing to remember is that you should be wary of the source of the bones and how you prepare them. Only get bones from a reputable supplier.

Also, never provide cooked bones. There are risks with raw bones, but cooked bones often splinter. They can cause cuts in your dog's mouth while presenting a major choking hazard. Avoid cooked bones and stick with raw alternatives instead.

If you provide bones, they should be more of a treat or supplement. Dogs can't survive on bones alone. You can mix pieces with your homemade raw meal or provide them independently. Either way, always watch your dog as they chow down.

Potential Disadvantages of Feeding Raw Venison

Potential Disadvantages of Feeding Raw Venison

Now that you know all the benefits, let's talk about a few possible disadvantages. 

Venison can be a great source of lean protein and many nutrients. However, there's always a risk when providing raw meat. Deer meat is no different.

If not handled or stored correctly, deer meat can harbor disease-causing pathogens. These pathogens can make your dog severely ill and put their overall health at risk.

Before panicking, don't let the risk of pathogens scare you off. The key is to be mindful of where you get deer meat and how you handle it.

Never get deer meat from a questionable source. Some people like to hunt deer or get venison from someone they know who hunts these game animals. While that's an easy source, you never know what pathogens meat can harbor.

Your best option is to go to a deer meat supplier registered by the Department of Agriculture. They have specific standards to maintain, providing peace of mind.

When you get your venison, freeze it for at least 24 hours. The freezing process will kill off pathogens, making it safe for your dog to eat.

Allow the frozen meat to thaw in your refrigerator to keep it away from flies and other pests. If you take these precautions, your dog should have no issues whatsoever.

Beyond the risk of pathogens, some dog owners worry about slightly lower protein content. Deer has less protein than alternatives like beef or chicken, so it can be an issue if your dog needs a high-protein diet to stay healthy.

However, for a vast majority of family dogs, the difference is not enough to raise concern. Consult with your vet for guidance if you're still unsure.

If you're feeding venison for the first time, watch your dog's health. Chances are, they'll love the stuff and scarf it down quickly! Monitor their condition. If you notice something's off, immediately take your dog to the vet.

When you do things right, venison can become a raw food staple that your dog loves

A Final Word

To sum up: Dogs can eat deer meat, and it's a great alternative to other protein sources. It's an excellent choice if your dog suffers from grain sensitivities or has allergies to other common protein sources.

As always, consult your vet if you're considering switching to a raw venison diet. There's a lot to gain, but you must be strategic in your switch.

Always stick to reputable deer meat suppliers, take steps to minimize the risk of pathogen-borne illnesses, and do everything in your power to make those venison meals as healthy as possible.

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.