Wild Game

Estimated reading time: 3 min

During hunting season many raw feeders wonder if they can feed their pet wild game. Open season begins in the fall and closes in the spring. Depending on location there can be a variety of game meats, raw meaty bones, and organs a raw feeder could include in their pet’s raw diet.

Benefits of Wild Game

There are multiple benefits to feeding wild game in a raw diet. Two main benefits to feeding game meats are the superior nutrition and possible cost reduction. Here are 4 benefits to feeding wild game:

Fresher Meat

Commercially farmed meat is frozen for transport until being sold. Storage conditions such as freezing and thawing will affect the nutritional quality of raw meat. It is hard to determine the storage conditions and storage time of store bought items. It is still recommended to freeze all wild game prior to feeding it raw. The difference is that the storage conditions and time spent in the freezer are controlled by the pet parent. Overall, wild game meat is considerably more “fresh” than meat purchased from a grocery store.

High Quality Nutrition

Wild game is red meat which is nutritionally superior to white meat. Red meat is darker, richer, and more nutritious due to the amounts of myoglobin and minerals present in the muscle tissue. Red meats are generally higher in protein, B vitamins, and minerals. The diet an animal eats directly affects the quality of the nutrients available in its body tissues. The fatty acids found in wild game are more balanced in comparison to commercially farmed meats. Wild game has a natural diet which consists of grasses, twigs, nuts, seeds, and berries, whereas commercially farmed livestock are typically fed a mixture of corn, soy, and hay.

Budget-Friendly Sourcing

It is illegal to sell hunted game in the United States. However, acquiring wild game scraps from local hunters is a resourceful 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. Additionally, many hunters end up with leftover game meat from the previous season and are willing to give these freezer cleanouts away to make room for the upcoming hunting season.

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 pet 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 also 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 and pathologies with wild game. Raw feeders must inspect the meat themselves to ensure it is healthy and free of parasites or 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. Some game species are native to specific regions and may be unavailable in other areas.

Expensive Exotic Meats

Some species of game are captive 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 may seem intimidating in the beginning. However, these 5 steps will equip pet parents with the appropriate knowledge on feeding wild game. 

Step 1: Always Select Safe Wild Game Proteins

There are many different species of wild game that are beneficial to feed in a raw diet. It is recommended to select animals lower on the food chain to decrease the risk of biomagnification. Herbivorous species are typically safe to feed because they are at the bottom of the food chain.


Wild Duck and Geese

Upland Game Birds

Wild Dove, Quail, Pheasant, Partridge and Turkey

Small Game

Squirrel, Beaver, Cottontail, and Hare

Hooved Game

Deer, Elk, Moose, Bison, Antelope, 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: Avoid Carnivorous, Omnivorous and Vector Species

Not all wild game is suitable to feed a pet. Carnivores are higher on the food chain and will carry the risks of biomagnification. This is the increase or amplification of a toxic substance in bodily tissues due to exposure, placement on the food chain, and the body’s ability to break down and pass the substance.

Species at the top of the food chain will have higher concentrations of heavy metals and pesticides. Additionally, carnivores have a higher risk for parasites and diseases. Many parasites that can infect wild carnivores and omnivores are freeze-resistant and the diseases they may carry are fatal.

Wild Carnivores & Omnivores: Bear, Fox, Coyote, and Raccoon

Carnivorous and omnivorous species such as bear, fox, coyote, raccoon, and similar species with a carnivorous or mixed 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 be avoided 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 environment will be present in the animal's muscle tissue itself.

Wild Hog

Aujeszky’s disease, also called 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 not recommended to feed wild hog for multiple reasons. The main cause for concern is Pseudorabies which is fatal in dogs and cats, and 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. The Merck Vet Manual offers more information about Aujeszky’s disease (Pseudorabies) in dogs and cats.

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). It 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. The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance offers more information about Chronic Wasting Disease.

Wild Rodents: Mice and Rats

While domestically raised rodents are safe to feed, wild rodents should be avoided due to the diseases they carry in addition to the risk of rodent poison. These poisons often take time to kill the target pest. Dogs and cats can become poisoned by consuming wild rodents that recently consumed rodent poison on a neighboring property.

Step 3: Thoroughly Inspect All Game Meats

Although wild game provides superior nutrition in comparison to farmed meat, there are aspects of wild game to be aware of. Wild animals are more exposed to many diseases, parasites, and pathogens which pose risks to pets if the appropriate caution is not taken.


It’s not uncommon to find parasites in wild game and it's important to be aware of common local parasites in game and pastured animals. 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. Organs should be closely inspected. Liver and lung flukes are a common parasite which infects wild and pasture raised ruminants and can be freeze resistant. 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. This 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 and the suspect 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 & Fish for Three Weeks

Preparation of game meats and fish is necessary prior to feeding any wild raw meat, raw meaty bones, or organs to a dog or cat. All wild game and fresh fish should be frozen for three weeks prior to feeding. Freezing wild game and fish is a preventative measure against parasites such as trichinellosis that may be missed during the previous inspection.

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! Wild game is almost always extremely lean. It will need to be paired with an appropriate source of essential fat. All wild game provides multiple items to be used in a raw diet:

Muscle Meat

Boneless Meat




Raw Meaty Bones











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 their pets will gain the benefits of consuming wild game:

There are many other wild species throughout the world that can be fed in a raw diet. Species of herbivorous classification will generally ensure it is a safe option for raw feeding. Always follow local hunting and trapping laws when obtaining wild game.

Select Safe Wild Game to Feed

Avoid Carnivorous, Omnivorous & Vector Species

Inspect All Wild Game

Freeze for 3 Weeks Minimum

Feed and Watch the Pet Enjoy