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Can Dogs Eat Deer Meat? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on April 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

Can Dogs Eat Deer Meat? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

VET APPROVED

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

The short answer is yes; dogs can eat deer meat, also known as venison. Venison is fairly similar to other types of meat, like beef. Dogs are facultative carnivores, which means that they prefer meat, they do best when they consume a large amount of meat, and will typically choose meat when it is available. However, they can consume and digest some plant matter, too.

How you prepare deer meat matters; it should always be completely cooked, as it may pass food-borne illnesses and parasites onto your dog if fed raw.

You can also choose a venison-based food. Be aware that many “venison-flavored” foods contain little venison, as venison is quite expensive, so always check the ingredient list if you’re set on feeding your dog venison specifically.

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The Benefits of Deer Meat

There are several benefits you may want to consider when giving your dog venison.

High in Protein

Firstly, venison is extremely high in protein, like most meats. Protein is vital for your dog’s health, as it helps them build and maintain muscles. More active dogs often need more protein, as their muscles become damaged and stretched more often.

Raw deer meat for venison ragout or goulash on the plate with spices
Image Credit: iva, Shutterstock

Lean Meat

Venison is a lean meat, which means that it is lower in fat. Dogs do need certain levels of fat to thrive, particularly young and active dogs. However, too much fat can also be a bad thing.

High levels of fat may lead to certain health conditions, like pancreatic problems. Overweight dogs may benefit from a lean protein source like venison, as it provides the protein they need without the extra calories from fat.

Hypoallergenic

Venison isn’t a common allergy for dogs, as they do not eat it as much as chicken and beef. Dogs do not develop allergies like people. Instead, they’re more likely to become allergic to a food the more they eat it. Chicken and beef are extremely common in dog foods. However, venison is quite rare, so is often a good choice for dogs with allergies.

venison_Shutterstock_DronG
Image Credit: DronG, Shutterstock

Nutrient-Dense

Venison is a fantastic source of many nutrients that your dog needs to thrive. It’s a complete protein, so it includes all the amino acids your dog needs for muscles and other bodily functions. It’s also high in several B vitamins, which can be hard to find in other foods.

Like most meats, venison is also high in iron, which is vital for blood production. Without iron, your dog can become anemic.

Downsides of Venison

While venison does have many benefits, it isn’t all good news. There are some potential downsides you need to keep in mind before feeding venison to your dog.

Expensive

Venison tends to be much more expensive than other meats. Even when you’re feeding it as part of a commercial dog food, the dog food tends to be more expensive as it is not as widely produced as beef, chicken, pork or lamb.

Limited Availability

Venison is also much harder to find. Deer aren’t farmed nearly as much as other animals. If you’re purchasing meat, it may only be available seasonally.

If you’re purchasing venison dog food, there are fairly few options available. Because there are fewer recipes to choose from, you may be unable to find a dog food that works well for your dog.

venison
Image Credit: Shutterbug75, Pixabay

Excessive Protein Intake

Venison is very lean with high-protein content. It can be excessively high in protein for some dogs, especially if it’s the only source of protein the dog is getting. They may not fill up very fast due to the low-fat content, leading to an overconsumption of the meat.

Too much protein over a long period can lead to several health problems, like kidney disease and liver problems. Therefore, it’s just as important not to give your dog too much protein as it is too little.

Different dogs need varying amounts of protein, though. Larger dogs need more protein than smaller dogs. Active dogs may require more protein, as they’re using their muscles more than other dogs. Puppies and seniors sometimes need more, as well.

If you’re concerned about your dog’s protein content, you should ask your vet about your dog’s specific needs. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

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Can Dogs Eat Deer Bones?

While deer meat is safe for dogs, deer bones are significantly less safe, though that doesn’t mean you should never give your dog deer bones. They’re a natural food source that can provide dogs with some added nutrients. Chewing on bones may also have some oral health benefits (though some dogs chew so aggressively that they can injure their teeth).

However, you should never give your dog cooked bones, as they can splinter and cause injuries. Cooked bones are incredibly brittle, and the sharp pieces can pierce the dog’s intestines and throat. Raw bones can be a risk, too, though. They may carry food-borne illnesses that can cause harm to you and your dog.

If you have younger children, you should be especially cautious. Dogs can spread the bacteria to other surfaces, and young children tend to put everything into their mouths.

You should also choose the right size bone for your dog. Larger dogs often need larger bones, as they have more jaw strength. Dogs that are voracious chewers may need thicker bones, too. For instance, knuckle bones are often a good option for some dogs. A good basic guide is to aim for bones that are longer than the width of their head, and wider than their front leg; this greatly reduces the risk of the bone being swallowed or getting stuck in their mouth.

Always monitor your dog if you decide to give them a deer bone. You should remove the bone after half an hour, and throw out all bones within 3 or 4 days. This may help prevent food-borne illnesses from taking up shop on the bone.

Be sure to introduce deer bones gradually, as they can cause stomach upset and similar issues for some canines. Even dogs that have previously eaten venison may not do well on deer bones.

Dogs should chew the bone—not eat it. If your dog starts eating the bone, it should be removed.

Conclusion

Dogs can eat venison as long as it is part of a balanced diet. It’s perfectly safe for dogs to eat when cooked properly with no added seasonings. It is very lean, meaning that it has a lower fat and cholesterol content than other types of meat. It’s not a common dog allergy, either. For these reasons, it can be an excellent option for some dogs with underlying conditions.

Venison can be given as part of commercial dog food, too. These diets tend to be rather expensive, though, which is something you should keep in mind before switching your dog to one.

From a practical standpoint, introducing venison purely for the sake of adding variety is not necessarily a good idea. As mentioned above, meats like venison are often a good option for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities, but these are most effective when the dog has not eaten them before. You are much better to stick to one or two protein sources rather than offer your dog a smorgasbord of options.

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Featured Image Credit: wax111, Pixabay

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