Can Dogs Eat Raw Deer Meat?

Photo by Gloria Cabada on Flickr

It is thought that there are around eleven million people who hunt deer in the U.S.

Of these nine million hunt deer with a gun and two million hunt with a bow.

Perhaps you or someone you know are one of these people.

As a dog owner and someone who doesn’t like waste, you are wondering if your dog can share some of your spoils.

And to make it even easier, you are desperate to know if your dog can eat raw deer meat?

Can raw deer meat make a dog sick?

Raw deer meat, like any raw meat, can contain different parasites and bacteria.

But this all depends on where the raw deer meat has come from and how it is handled.

Deer have a variation of mad cow’s disease that affects a tiny proportion of them. 

It is called Chronic wasting disease (cwd). 

And if you buy your venison from a grocery store or butcher’s there is no risk from this disease because it should have been picked up by the quality control measures. 

The risk only comes if you hunt deer and you have killed a deer that has the disease.

And even then, there is little evidence that cwd can be passed from deer to human (or dog) from eating infected meat. 

But a deer that has chronic wasting disease is pretty obvious because they will look ill (malnourished) and they will be stumbling around as if they are drunk. 

The second infection to bear in mind is that wild white tailed deer in Ohio can carry the virus that causes Covid 19- although there is no evidence that this can be transmitted when the meat is eaten. 

Other bacteria that can be found in raw deer meat include E coli, Staphylococci, Clostridium and Listeria.

Clostridium and Listeria are the most likely bacteria to be found in raw deer meat. 

Having listed the different diseases that raw deer meat might carry, in my next section I want to look at what the possible side effects of these infections might be. 

What are the side effects of eating contaminated raw deer meat?

I will make this section pretty brief because the chances of your dog eating contaminated raw deer meat is very slim indeed.

The biggest threat of contamination comes when the raw deer meat comes from a deer that has been killed by you or someone you know.

It is very important that the meat is quickly processed and safely handled.

Although it is way beyond the remit of this article to go into any detail about these things, this post is one of many very useful guides. 

Can dogs get worms from eating raw deer meat?

On top of all of those contaminants that I have already mentioned, dog owners also want to know if a dog can get worms from eating raw deer meat.

And the simple answer is that dogs can get worms from eating raw deer meat because they can potentially get worms from any type of raw meat

But not just any deer meat, it has to be raw deer meat that has been infected with worms or their eggs.

And so how can infected meat be identified?

Unless the meat is ridden with worms or eggs, you can’t identify deer meat that has been infected with worms.

The only way to guarantee that your dog won’t get worms from deer meat is by using a  technique that I will discuss next.

Does cooking raw deer meat make it safer to eat? 

Cooking raw deer meat will make it much safer to eat.

There is nothing special about raw deer meat in this sense because properly cooking all meats will make them safer to eat because heat is the only guaranteed way of destroying bacteria. 

The funny thing is that there is no specific guidance about cooking deer meat from either the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.)

Looking at the general advice from the CDC, if you are going to cook whole cuts of deer meat, the meat should be cooked until the meat in the middle of the cut is 145°F

If you have ground your raw deer meat, the temperature needs to be 160°F. 

On the flip side of this, it is very important to note that freezing deer meat will not kill the bacteria.

Don’t think that it can either be frozen or cooked in order to be made safe.

Freezing raw deer meat will preserve it for longer but it won’t make it bacteria or parasite free. 

What is the nutrition of deer meat?

A 100g portion of deer meat contains about 158 calories, 30 g of protein and 3 g of fat. 

It is a great source of potassium, iron and magnesium. 

Potassium helps with the healthy function of the heart, nerves and muscles– as does magnesium

Iron is a crucial element that helps oxygen to travel around your dog’s body. 

But that is all well and good but how does that compare to other more common meats that I might feed to my dog?

Venison vs beef vs chicken: which is more nutritious?

We can only really tell how nutritious deer meat is by comparing it to other meats that we might buy.

I have created a chart below which contains the most important pieces of “data”

100 g servingVenisonBeef Chicken
Calories 158250239
Fat 3.215 g 14 g 
Protein30 g 26 g 27 g 
Sodium54 mg 72 mg 82 mg 
Iron 25 %14%7 %
Potassium335 mg 318 mg 223 mg 
Vitamin B0%20 %20 %
Magnesium6%5 %5 %

Wow! That chart kinda blows me away.

Venison is far more nutritious than either beef or chicken.

Per serving it contains much fewer calories (about 40% less), contains 80% less fat than beef or chicken and it contains slightly more protein than its two biggest rivals.

Moving on, deer meat has less sodium in it, but a lot more iron (over three times the iron that chicken contains) and slightly more potassium than beef and lots more potassium than chicken.

The only nutrient that it fails to deliver on is vitamin B because it doesn’t seem to contain any and it contains a tiny bit more magnesium than the other meats.

So then, what is stopping us from filling up our dog fridges with packs of deer meat?

How easy is it to buy deer meat?

There are two good reasons that we aren’t rushing out to stock up on venison: price and availability!

Let me start with availability.

When I looked at Walmart, Kroger and even Costco they didn’t have any packs of venison.

Well, Walmart and Kroger did but only in the form of packs of venison pet food and venison pet treats!

And we are in Autumn- the prime time to buy venison. 

Now you can buy venison online and have it delivered to your door but this brings us to the next little hiccup, which is price!

There are plenty of websites that stock venison and the price you pay depends on the cut of venison that you are after.

On this website, ground venison is $13 per lb and stew cubes are $15 per lb. 

Whereas this online shop sells ground venison for $14 and stew cubes for $18 per lb.

Compare this to antibiotic chicken breasts which cost about $5 per lb or where Angus ground beef is about $8 per lb.

Venison is twice the cost of chicken or beef.  

Having compared deer meat with other popular meats, in my next section I will take a look at other parts of a deer that your dog can eat. 

What other parts of a deer can a dog eat?

Looking on Kroger or Walmart will definitely not help you when it comes to finding out what other parts of a deer your dog can eat.

For this, you need to look online at a specialist dog food supplier. 

Deer, like any animal, have lots of parts that you can feed your dog.

One of the most popular parts are deer legs, which I have written about here

Deer legs don’t just contain bone and they contain lots of nutrition. 

Deer antlers are popular with some dog owners, as alternatives to animal bones.

They last longer than many bones because they tend to be harder than most raw bones but because of how hard they are, you do need to be careful with them.

On a related topic, some people want to know if you can feed deer antlers that you have found in the woods to your dog- which is something else I have written about

If you are butchering a deer that you have shot yourself then you might want to feed your dog the heart or the liver.

Deer heart contains lots of B vitamins (which help to support healthy cells in a dog’s body) whilst the liver contains a huge injection of vitamin A and iron- so feed it very sparingly! 

Vitamin A promotes good eyesight  and it helps boost our dog’s immune system. 

But if you butchering your own deer, because of the threat of cwd don’t be tempted to feed your dog the brain or the spinal column of the deer.

After reading all about raw deer meat, you are suddenly a bit put off by the thought of it.

What are your alternatives? 

Alternatives to raw deer meat 

I don’t think that you will be too surprised to learn that a popular alternative to venison is beef. 

But thinking back to the comparison chart that I included earlier, beef is much more similar to chicken than it is to venison.

I have two more substitutions that you might like to consider- although getting hold of these meats might be difficult.

The first alternative is rabbit- which has slightly less fat than deer meat and isn’t as high in protein. 

But it does contain similar levels of potassium and iron.

As if I couldn’t get any more zanier, my final offering is kangaroo.

Kangaroo has fewer calories, lower fat content and doesn’t contain as much protein as deer meat. 

But if you think that getting hold of deer meat or rabbit is difficult for anyone in America, then buying kangaroo meat will be almost impossible.