Venison is a novel protein. It is also leaner than other meats like chicken and beef and is a good source of nutrients including iron, niacin, and B vitamins. It may work as an alternative meat protein source for dogs with proven allergies or those that have shown an allergic reaction to other meat-based foods. Less likely to contain antibiotics and growth hormones, venison may be a more natural and healthier alternative to beef and chicken foods.
Venison-based foods are becoming increasingly popular, and different brands include different ingredients. To help ensure that you’re buying good quality food, we have written reviews of the best venison dog foods. We have included details of any controversial ingredients, as well as the type and source of venison used, where this information is available.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2022
The 10 Best Venison Dog Foods
1. Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Venison Dog Food – Best Overall
Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Venison Dry Dog Food is affordably priced and lists turkey and chicken meal as its primary ingredients. It also contains venison and has been fortified with various vitamins and minerals. With a 30% protein level, Purina advertises this food as being suitable for all breeds at all stages of life.
This food is not suitable for dogs with grain allergies or that are intolerant to grains. It contains corn gluten, soy flour, and other grain-based ingredients. It also has caramel color, which is an artificial color and unnecessary in dog food.
One controversial ingredient found in the formula of the Purina ONE food is menadione. This is a source of vitamin K, but it has been linked to allergies but also more serious complaints like liver toxicity.
Overall, this is the best venison dog food we found at a competitive price. It could have more venison and less grain in it, but other than the menadione, its ingredients are generally considered safe and nutritious for your dog.
2. Rachael Ray Nutrish PEAK Grain-Free Venison Dog Food – Best Value
Rachael Ray Nutrish PEAK Grain-Free Venison Dry Dog Food is an inexpensive food that lists multiple meat sources in its ingredients including venison but also beef, chicken meal, chicken fat, lamb meal, lamb, and menhaden fish meal. Other ingredients include peas and potatoes. Peas are considered a good source of fiber and help give Rachael Ray Nutrish a 6% fiber content. The ingredients list dried peas, pea starch, and pea protein, which are constituent ingredients from the same source: peas. Peas likely make up a good amount of the ingredients in this food.
Beet pulp is found in this food. This ingredient is considered controversial because it is a cheap food filler. Also, while Nutrish contains chelated minerals that are easier for your dog’s body to absorb than non-chelated, there are no probiotics in the ingredients.
It is worth noting that this is a grain-free food. Other beneficial ingredients include chicken fat, which is high in omega-6. Menhaden fish meal and flaxseed naturally contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, while the latter ingredient is also high in dietary fiber. The combination of low cost and quality ingredients, as well as the lack of grains, make this the best venison dog food for the money.
3. Natural Balance L.I.D. Grain-Free Dry Dog Food – Premium Choice
Natural Balance L.I.D. Grain-Free Dry Dog Food includes venison as its second ingredient, after sweet potatoes. Its high concentration of venison means that this is expensive food, but it does ensure that you’re feeding your dog protein from a reliable and high-quality source. The ingredients also contain salmon oil and flaxseed, which give the food good omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid levels. The added minerals found in the food are chelated, which means that your dog should find it easier to absorb them.
This food has a protein level lower than most others on the list, just 20%. It also lists canola oil as one of its ingredients. Canola oil is considered controversial because it is made from genetically modified rapeseed.
There is also no mention of probiotics in the ingredient list other than brewers’ dried yeast, which is somewhat controversial. On the one hand, this yeast is rich in B vitamins as well as antioxidants. It can benefit the skin and coat, hair, eyes, and even the liver function of your dog. It can even reduce anxiety levels and is a probiotic. However, some owners claim that this ingredient increases the likelihood of dogs contracting bloat. This has not been scientifically proven, and it would likely take a large concentration of the yeast to have this negative affect. You should ensure that your dog is not allergic to this ingredient, though.
4. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Denali Dinner Venison Dog Food
Blue Buffalo sells food that aims to mimic the real-life diet of animals and wolves, using natural ingredients. This formula uses salmon and menhaden fish meal as its primary ingredients. It also contains pea, tomato pomace, and flaxseed, as well as venison, halibut, and a host of vitamin and nutrient supplements. The Blue Buffalo food boasts 30% protein and is suitable for all breeds and at all stages of life. The fiber content is also quite high, at nearly 7%, so is suitable for dogs that need a little extra.
However, it isn’t all good news — There are a few controversial ingredients. The ingredient list contains several pea derivatives, which could have been combined into a single ingredient that would have appeared higher on the list. Dried tomato pomace and alfalfa meal also both feature and while neither ingredient is considered especially bad, they are both known for being inexpensive fillers that bulk up the food and add protein but offer very little nutritious value. Alfalfa meal, in particular, is commonly found in horse feed.
5. Stella & Chewy’s Venison Blend Dinner Patties Dog Food
Stella & Chewy’s Venison Blend Dinner Patties Dog Food is different from the rest of the dry food in this list. It is made from raw ingredients and then freeze-dried, enabling you to give your dogs a raw food diet without having to prepare it yourself. As such, it is quite costly compared to other foods. It also has a very high protein level of 45%, which will be too high for a lot of dogs and will require mixing with other food sources. Despite this, the food has a lot of calories from fat, rather than protein.
However, the dinner patties list venison as the primary ingredient, followed by lamb and lamb liver, venison liver, venison lung, lamb kidney, lamb spleen, lamb heart, and venison bone. After olive oil, the ingredients list contains plenty of organic fruit and vegetables, providing a varied range of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and other benefits ingredients. There are no controversial ingredients in this food, which also benefits from chelated minerals that are easier to digest and dried fermentation products that aid in digestion.
6. American Journey Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Venison Dog Food
American Journey Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Venison Dog Food is a high-quality food that costs a little more than the average price for this list. However, it contains mostly excellent ingredients with only a small number of controversial additions. Its primary ingredient is deboned venison, followed by sweet potatoes. The mix also incorporates peas and pea protein, with pea starch further down the list. Combining these ingredients and listing them as one item, peas, may have pushed this lower quality ingredient further up the list.
The ingredients list canola oil. Canola oil is considered beneficial by some owners because it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is considered controversial because it may be derived from genetically modified rapeseed. Fish oils are considered a better source of omega-3, than vegetable oils, and would have been preferred.
Another potentially controversial ingredient is that of beet pulp. It is known to offer blood sugar health benefits to dogs, but some people believe it to be poor-quality filler.
The minerals in this food are chelated. Chelated minerals have been attached to the protein in the food, which makes it easier for your dog to absorb and use the minerals. There are no probiotics in the food, which would help with digestion.
7. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Venison Dog Food
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Venison Meal Dog Food is formulated for adult dogs of any breed, aged 1-year plus. It contains 22% protein, which could be a little higher to benefit virtually any breed, and it has a low fiber content of around 3.5%.
However, its primary ingredient is venison meal, which is essentially a concentrated form of venison meat. It also contains rice, oatmeal, and chickpeas as its major ingredients.
Brewers’ rice is considered low quality because it is the husks that are left over after rice has been milled. The nutritional value of the leftover husks is considerably lower than in the rice itself. Therefore, this ingredient is used as a cheap filler. The ingredients do contain several grains, so if your dog is sensitive to these ingredients, or suffers allergies, you should look at alternative foods.
Although chicken fat sounds like a low-quality addition to dog food, it is high in omega-3 fatty acids, so is considered a good addition to your dog’s food. This formula also includes flaxseed. The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed are not as bioavailable as they are in fish oil, but this is considered the best plant-based source of the essential fatty acid.
8. Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw Venison Dry Dog Food
Merrick’s Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw Venison Dry Dog Food is another freeze-dried raw food. It contains natural ingredients and no controversial ingredients. Like other foods of this type, it has a high protein ratio of 38% and it also has a low fiber content of just 3.5% so you may need to look elsewhere if you need a high-fiber diet for your pup.
While it is true that Backcountry contains venison, it only features about 12th in the list, which means that it is by no means a primary ingredient. The primary ingredients are still beneficial, however, and are listed as being deboned lamb, chicken meal, and turkey meal.
The food also contains salmon, boar, and beef along with fruit and vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, and peas. Flaxseed is included, along with several fish ingredients, which means that there are a good amount of omega fatty acids. The ingredients include chelated minerals that should be easily absorbed by your dog’s body. Several ingredients look to serve as probiotics, too, which means that they help with digestion.
9. Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Canned Dog Food is wet, canned food. The primary ingredient is vegetable broth, followed by chicken and then sweet potatoes. Venison is only the sixth listed ingredient, just ahead of canola oil.
Canola oil is considered a controversial ingredient. It does contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are very beneficial for your dog, but it could have been sourced from genetically modified rapeseed. Sugar and salt are both listed quite high in the ingredients.
The food has a protein ratio of just 8% so will need to be mixed with a good-quality kibble to ensure that your dog is getting a decent amount of protein each day. It is also 83% moisture, which is high and means that the ingredients have minimal nutritional value. However, the food does not contain any artificial ingredients and it is suitable for dogs on a grain-free diet. There is also no beef, which is another common cause of food intolerance and sensitivity in dogs.
10. CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Dry Dog Food
Canidae Grain-Free PURE Dry Dog Food is expensive and while it does contain venison, it is listed below half a dozen other ingredients, including canola oil. It has a 27% protein ratio and 4.5% fiber. It has been formulated for dogs with food sensitivities and, as such, it does not contain any grains or beef. It does contain lamb and goat meal as its main ingredients. Goat meal is a concentrated form of the meat, which has a higher protein ratio than pure goat meat.
There are a couple of controversial ingredients listed. Along with canola oil, alfalfa is also quite high on the ingredient list, just behind the venison meal in fact, and this has minimal nutritional value other than its protein content.
Conclusion: Selecting the Best Venison Dog Food
Venison is considered a novel protein, and it is a lean protein compared to other meat sources. It is also a tasty treat for your dog, and many pups love the taste of food that contains deer meat. Although it remains less common than other forms of meat, which has the beneficial side effect that it is less likely to be heavily processed and trigger allergies, it is becoming increasingly popular. There are dozens of options on the market, including both dry and wet food. Hopefully, our reviews of ten of the best venison foods have helped you find the right meal for your furry friend.
While writing our reviews, we found the Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Venison Dry Dog Food to offer the best all-round value. As well as high-quality venison, it uses turkey and chicken to provide a well-rounded and balanced meal. With an impressive 33% fiber and 6% fiber, the Rachael Ray Nutrish PEAK Grain-Free Venison Dry Dog Food is not only the best value if you’re on a budget, but is a great choice for dogs with grain allergies and sensitivities too.
Featured Image Credit: Ekaterina Markelova, Shutterstock