During hunting season many raw feeders question if they can feed their pet wild game. Open season begins in the fall and closes in the spring where there is a variety of game meats, raw meaty bones, and organs a raw feeder can include in their pet’s raw diet.
Benefits of Wild Game
There are multiple benefits to feeding wild game to a pet, with two main benefits to feeding game meats being superior nutrition and cost reduction. Here are 4 more benefits to feeding wild game:
Commercial-farmed meat is frozen for transport until sold. Storage conditions, such as freezing and thawing, affects the nutritional quality of raw meat. It is hard to determine storage conditions and storage time of these items.
It is recommended to freeze all wild game prior to feeding it to your pet. The difference is the storage conditions and time spent in the freezer is controlled by you. Overall, wild game meat is considerably more “fresh” than meat purchased from a grocery store.
High Quality Nutrition
Wild game contains red meat, which is nutritionally superior to white meat. Red meat is darker, richer, and more nutritious than white meat due to the amounts of myoglobin present in the muscle tissue. Red meats are generally higher in protein, B vitamins, and minerals.
A diet an animal eat directly affects the quality of the nutrients available in its body tissues. Fatty acids found in wild game are more balanced in comparison to commercial farmed meats. Wild game has a natural diet which consists of grasses, twigs, nuts, seeds, and berries, whereas commercial farmed livestock are fed a mixture of corn, soy, and hay.
It is illegal to sell hunted game in the United States. However, acquiring wild game scraps from local hunters is a useful way to save money when raw feeding. Create and maintain friendships with local hunters to gain access to game meat they do not want and would otherwise throw away.
Hunters keep the prime cuts for themselves which leaves the internal organs, raw meaty bones, and meat scraps. Feeding the off cuts from wild game helps reduce waste and minimize monthly raw feeding costs.
Beneficial Option for Elimination Diets
An elimination diet is useful to determine food allergies. A single protein is fed for a minimum of six weeks before introducing any new foods. The protein used to start an elimination diet should be a protein the dog or cat has never eaten before.
Wild game is a great option for elimination diets because not many commercialized foods are made with game meats.
Pitfalls of Wild Game
Although wild game provides multiple benefits, there are some key issues to take into consideration when feeding game meats.
Hunted wild game does not go through regulatory USDA inspection. There is a risk of parasites with wild game. Raw feeders must inspect the meat to ensure it is healthy, free of parasites, and pathology.
Seasonal and Regional Proteins
Not all wild game is readily available throughout the year or even accessible in all locations. Wild game is regulated by hunting seasons and some game species are native to specific regions throughout the world.
Expensive Exotic Meats
Some species of wild game are raised on pasture for farming purposes. These meats are available for purchase at some grocery stores and markets. While this is a convenient way to purchase exotic meats, the downside is a very expensive price tag.
Steps to Feeding Wild Game
Sourcing wild game to include in a pet’s raw diet may seem intimidating in the beginning, but if when equipped with the appropriate knowledge on feeding wild game, this 5 step process will have raw feeders feeding pets game meats in no time!
Step 1: Always Select Safe Wild Game Proteins
There are many different species of wild game beneficial to feed in a raw diet. Select animals lower on the food chain to decrease the risk of biomagnification. Herbivorous species are always safe to feed because they are at the bottom of the food chain.
Wild Duck and Geese
Upland Game Birds
Wild Dove, Quail, Pheasant, and Turkey
Squirrel, Cottontail, and Hare
Deer, Elk, Moose, Bison, Mountain Goat, and Ram
Kangaroo, Emu, and Ostrich
Wild Game Hunting Seasons
Each type of game animal will be seasonal and regional to each location throughout the world.
Step 2: Always Avoid Carnivorous Game Meats
Not all wild game is suitable to feed a pet. Carnivores higher on the food chain risks biomagnification, which is the increase or amplification of a toxic substance in body tissues due to exposure, placement in the food chain, and the body’s ability to break down and pass the substance.
Species at the top of the food chain have higher concentrations of heavy metals and pesticides. In addition to biomagnification, carnivores have a higher risk for parasites and diseases. Many parasites in carnivores are freeze-resistant and the diseases fatal.
Wild Carnivores: Bear, Fox, Coyote, and Raccoon
Carnivorous species such as bear, fox, coyote, raccoon, and similar species with a carnivorous diet should not be used in raw diets. In addition to biomagnification, the presence of parasites and disease are a major concern when feeding species higher on the food chain.
Predatory Fish: Shark, Tuna, and Swordfish
Predatory fish such as shark, tuna, swordfish, and similar species higher on the aquatic food chain should not be used in raw diets. Predatory fish have higher concentrations of mercury in relation to selenium. Feeding fish in excess can cause toxicity concerns.
Vector Species: Frogs and Amphibians
Vector species such as frogs and amphibians should not be fed in raw diets due to their permeable skin. Any toxins, pathogens, or parasites in the water a frog or amphibian lives in will be present in the muscle tissue itself.
Aujeszky’s disease, or Pseudorabies, is a viral disease in swine that has been endemic in most parts of the world. For raw feeders in the United States and Europe, it is recommended not to feed wild hog for multiple reasons. The main cause for concern is Pseudorabies, which is fatal in dogs and cats, is that there is no treatment. The virus is freeze-resistant and is only destroyed by heat above 160F (71C).
This virus does not affect commercial swine in the United States. However, while there are several European countries with an Aujeszky-free status, most eastern and southern European countries are not. Considering the European free trade market, it is not recommended to feed commercial swine in these locations.
Head, Spine, & Spleen of Deer & Elk
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease that affects deer and elk. This disease is a form of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) and is similar to Mad Cow Disease found in cattle and Scrapie in sheep. Feeding farmed and wild venison is acceptable and highly encouraged in raw diets. However, if chronic wasting disease is a present in your area, do not feed the head, spine, and spleen of the animal.
Step 3: Thoroughly Inspect All Game Meats
Although wild game provides superior nutrition to farmed meat, there are aspects of wild game to be aware of. Wild animals are exposed to many diseases, parasites, and pathogens which poses risks to pets if the appropriate caution is not taken.
It’s not uncommon to find parasites in wild game. Inspecting wild game is a preventative measure against parasites. The primary locations for parasites are the gastrointestinal tract and organs. Therefore, remove and dispose of the intestines and bladder from wild game before storage and feeding.
Liver and lung flukes are another parasite which infects wild ruminants. Infected liver and lung should not be fed.
Wild animals get sick or injured because mother nature is not very forgiving. Spots, cysts, or lesions on internal organs are a sign the animal was sick, which means the infected internal organs should not be fed.
Muscle meat from wild game is deep red and low in fat. Cysts, growths, or discoloration on body tissues are a sign of injury or sickness, which means the infected meat should not be fed.
Questionable Wild Game
When in doubt, throw it out! There is no point in feeding wild game if something looks questionable.
Step 4: Freeze Game Meats for Three Weeks
Preparation of game meats is necessary prior to feeding any wild meat, raw meaty bones, or organs to a dog or cat. All wild game should be frozen for three weeks prior to feeding. Freezing wild game is a preventative measure against parasites such as trichinellosis.
Step 5: Feed & Watch Your Pet Enjoy Their Meal
After the wild game meats have completed their time in the freezer for three weeks, it is time to assemble meals and feed a pet! All wild game provides multiple items to be used in a raw diet:
Raw Meaty Bones
"GAME MEATS PROVIDE HIGH QUALITY NUTRITION."
Ronny LeJeune, CertCN, CPDT-KA, CCC
Wild game is a great option to add in high-quality ingredients into a pet’s raw diet. However, there are a few variables to be aware of when feeding wild game. When raw feeders follow the five steps above to feeding wild game their pets will gain the benefits through their raw diet:
Select Safe Wild Game to Feed
Avoid Carnivorous Species
Inspect All Wild Game
Freeze 3 Weeks Minimum
Feed and Watch the Pet Enjoy
There are many other wild species throughout the world that can be fed in a raw diet. Species of herbivorous classification will ensure a safe option for raw feeding, but always follow local hunting and trapping laws if and when obtaining wild game.