larry-deerDeer meat is a great food for your dog. Now that we are officially into the 2008 deer hunting season in Texas, it’s the perfect time to start feeding raw venison.

Dogs are classified as carnivores. There is a mere .2% difference between dog and wolf DNA. If we realize that our dogs are so closely related to wolves, then it is a short step to understanding our dogs should eat like the wolf rather than eating junk out of a bag.

An ideal meal for our domestic wolves, also know as Lacy dogs, is raw on-the-hoof deer meat. Many hunters have deer meat left over from previous year, and that is fine to feed to your dogs, but today I am writing about feeding the deer that is freshly shot and ready for the dog to eat.

larry-leg1There are two main ways to feed fresh deer. The first is to feed it like the dogs would eat in the wild. You can just pitch it out and let the dogs chow down. This is known as prey model feeding. It is the optimal diet for your dogs. However, not many people have the desire to see a partially chewed deer laying in their yard. So the alternative is to spend time preparing the deer to be consumed by the dog.

When you make the decision to prepare one of your kills for your dogs to eat, you will need to have a few items on hand. Strong, sharp knives are essential. You will need something to store the meat in. You can do it the cheap way and use plastic shopping bags, or you can spend a little money on zip lock bags. I keep quart size and gallon size baggies and always have plenty of Wal-Mart bags on hand. I also use corn or feed sacks for the parts I don’t cut down.

The first thing, of course, is to gut the deer. You can feed any of the things that you find inside the deer, but in the wild, the wolves do not eat the contents of the digestive tract. I don’t think many people would want to prepare the digestive tract anyway! All of the other parts are excellent food. The organs should be separated out so that they can be fed individually. Don’t over look the trachea, any of the glands, lungs or other scraps, they can all be fed.

Next you can skin the deer. It is actually good to feed some of the hide. The hair is used by the dog to scour the digestive system of parasites. We cut the legs somewhere above the knee and then cut the hooves off. It is my experience that dogs love to chew on the hooves, but they will not completely digest the hoof and it will eventually come back up. So we just cut them off.

The deer can be butchered into whatever size pieces you desire. I have my husband cut the deer into manageable pieces for me, and then I can break the meat down however I want. I like to keep the meat in fairly large pieces, such as a leg with the ham still attached. That way, when I feed the pieces, the dogs are eating large chunks that are close to what a wolf would eat. If you prefer, you can go ahead and cut the meat into smaller, meal-sized packages. Just remember that part of the benefit of feeding raw is for the dog to rip and tear the meat off of the bone. This cleans the front teeth as the dog is eating.

I freeze the extra meat in double Wal-Mart bags, thus saving the expense of using bought bags. I have learned that it is a good thing for me to label the packages. I do go ahead and cut the organs into meal size portions so that I can just grab a bag of liver to go. I do have to remember to get those large pieces out early enough so that they will be completely thawed when it is time to feed the dogs.

This deer season, don’t let all that good meat go to waste. There is a lot of work involved in preparing a whole deer for the dogs to eat, but I have found that there is also a great deal of satisfaction in having a freezer full of meals that the dogs dearly love to eat and that is so very good for them.

This article was written by Betty Leek, owner of the National Lacy Dog Registry and champion of holistic dog care.

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