Wild Game | Practices To Feed Safely
Updated: Oct 27, 2022
Wild game can provide high-quality and budget-friendly protein options for a raw diet. During hunting season, raw feeders can often get their hands on offal and other parts from hunting themselves or hunters. To safely feed this great source of meat, there are a few caveats to cover before adding this to the bowl.
Avoid feeding wild boar due to Aujeszky's disease, a highly contagious DNA virus called pseudorabies or mad itch. Pigs are the only reservoir host, but the virus can infect cattle, sheep, cats, dogs, goats, and wildlife, while human and equine cases are rare. This disease is fatal in dogs and cats and, therefore, should be avoided.
Pseudorabies occur worldwide and were once prevalent in the USA but have been eradicated in commercialized swine since 2004. But can still be found in feral populations. Some places have entirely eliminated pseudorabies, but one should err on the side of caution and test and confirm before feeding.
In pigs, symptoms include neurological, respiratory, and reproductive. The virus can be spread through nose-to-nose contact with an infected pig, respiratory secretions, fomites (objects in contact), or the bodies of infected pigs (including touching and eating).
The virus is freeze-resistant and is only destroyed by heat above 160F (71C). And currently, there is no treatment for pseudorabies though antibiotic medications can control secondary bacterial infections, and vaccines are available. To keep your pets safe, it's best to avoid putting this one protein into the bowl, but thankfully there are plenty of others!
Chronic Wasting Disease
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a nasty neurological disease found in infected deer, elk, and moose populations. CWD damages portions of the brain and causes loss of body control, behavioral changes, excessive salivation, and death. Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are the group of diseases it belongs to. It’s similar to Mad Cow Disease or Scrapie, a TSE of domestic sheep.
Species naturally susceptible to CWD are white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, red deer, sika deer, elk, reindeer, and moose,
To date, there are no evidence dogs can become infected with CWD. However, avoiding feeding the brain and spinal cord tissues from the killed game is best. CWD prions are expelled through the urine, saliva, and manure of infected animals.
Contact your local Wildlife & Fisheries for the most accurate and current information on CWD in your area. If CWD is present in your area, do not feed the animals' head, spine, lymph nodes, or spleen. You can find more info on the USDA CWD pages and the CDC CWD page.
Since carnivores are on top of the food web, there can be a significant concern for biomagnification and a high risk of parasites and illnesses.
Biomagnification is the concentration of toxins in an organism due to consuming other plants or animals. The pollutants increase in tissues as they move up the food chain. These toxins cannot be excreted, getting passed onto the next trophic level. Examples are mercury building up in fish or pesticides building up in smaller animals.
Whether natural or human-made, there are many toxins in the world that animals consume daily. Since we can’t avoid them, at least we can avoid feeding these toxins in significant quantities by not feeding predatory animals. Rather than carnivorous animals, it is best to stick to lower-level prey like the ones in the chart below.
Wild game has superior nutrition due to its natural lifestyle and diet. But due to not being in a farmed environment, the privilege of USDA inspection does not occur. This leaves the hunter and raw feeder responsible for ensuring the animal is free of disease or parasites.
The meat should be a deep red and free of cysts, growths, and discoloration. Parasites most commonly reside in the intestinal tract and organs. Therefore, the intestines and bladder should be removed before feeding. As for organs, inspect the liver and lungs closely for freeze-resistant flukes, as these cannot be fed. If you are unsure if you should feed, toss it!
If you are sourcing from a hunter, kindly ask how the animal was killed and if the tool used was removed from the animal. For example, if the animal was killed via bow and arrow, ensure the arrowhead was removed from the meat before feeding.
Mother Nature can be harsh, which leads to wild game being prone to parasites. Therefore, all wild game should be frozen for at least three weeks before being fed to kill off potential parasites. While this step is a preventative for the most common parasites, such as trichinellosis, it is wise to research the common parasites/diseases in wild game in your area, as the inspection and safety part falls on the owner.
Wild game is a fantastic and budget-friendly way to incorporate diversity through nutrient-dense proteins. As wild animals are not farmed, they are much leaner and should be paired with fattier cuts or an appropriate fat source. Keeping these variables in mind, you’re all set to feed wild game!