Can Deer Eat Dog Food

Can Deer Eat Dog Food?

Deer can eat dog food, this is the answer to the common question of whether or not a deer can eat dog food. But having said that deer can eat dog food doesn’t mean that they can eat all kinds of dog food. Deer are considered herbivores and they feed on plant food. Like any other animals deer also tend to display opportunistic behavior by eating or trying to eat other different kinds of foods they find around. Hunger is one of the reasons why these animal may display this kind of opportunistic behavior. It is common to find some deer animals domesticated while some remain wild species.


Deer Diet

A deer’s diet is different from a dog’s diet despite the deer sometimes eating the dog’s diet. The deer need mostly proteins, digestible energy (digestible energy foods), minerals, vitamins and water. These are the main nutritional needs that are required for the deer despite the change in their digestive system in different seasons. A deer will need 13 to 16% crude protein for normal growth and development and energy requirements are higher than proteins. The energy requirement however varies with size, growth, lactation and many other physiological and climatic variations. The deer derives its vitamins and minerals from various plants they consume which is important for their health and growth. The deer being herbivorous animals mainly feeds on grasses, seeds, plant shoots, shrubs, trees, fruits and herbaceous flowering plants.

The dietary needs for a deer are not always the same, they change with seasons according to the changes in their metabolic needs. You will notice that deer cannot stick to only one food source, they will change their diet as seasons change. Deer’s digestive system changes slowly to adapt to different food sources available for the deer in different seasons of the year. For winter season the deer’s digestive system will gradually change and develop a good enzyme balance that can digest its winter diet easily. In seasons where fresh grass and green leaves and shoots are readily available, the digestive system will change to suit that while when the season changes they will also change. Deer unlike dogs cannot stick to only one food source for their long term growth and health. Those intending to keep deer as a pet should understand this.

Dog’s Diet

Dogs’ diet is somewhat different from deer’s diet. The main nutritional needs for dogs are fats and proteins and the diet does not change over time. Dogs are omnivores and they feed on both plant and animal food sources. But most of the times dogs derive their required nutrients from animal proteins and fats. Their teeth structure allows them also to grind bones and fibrous plant material. Feeding of dog food to deer should be done in a recommended way which does not result in ill-health situations for the deer.

How To Feed Deer Dog Food

Having mentioned that deer can eat dog food doesn’t mean that one has to feed them dog food due to different nutritional requirements. However, there are a few ways of feeding dog food to these animals but above all dog food should not be treated as the base for deer feed. We have mentioned the changes in the deer’s digestive system which also requires to be matched with dog feed. Dog food should be given in small quantities as treats.

There are different types of commercial dog foods available on the market. It is important to find plant based dog food formulations and give the deer in small quantities. This allows the deer’s digestive system to adjust to the food otherwise you may do more harm than good by random change in feed in a short space of time. Avoid giving deer dog feed with genetically modified ingredients, artificial preservatives and meat flavorings. Read the diet nutritional value and make sure it is free from these ingredients.

Dangers of Feeding Dog Food To Deer

If deer are left to eat dog food without being properly controlled, they may face many problems in terms of their healthy. Below are some of the problems of letting deer eat too much dog food without being controlled.

  • When deer diet is suddenly changed, their gastrointestinal pH and microbiomes are affected seriously. Consumption of too much carbohydrates within a short space of time may cause bloating and acidosis in deer. Deer metabolism changes with seasons and slows down in winter such that if bloating is acute chances are high the deer may die.
  • When deer eat food that is full of indigestible matter, their stomach gets full without any nutritional benefits derived from the content in their stomachs. Unfortunately deer will eat anything that you put before them or anything they find whether it has nutritional benefits or not.
  • Grain overload. This is caused by excessive consumption of foods like grains resulting in diarrhea, convulsions and even death.

Despite deer being able to eat dog food, this is not recommended and should be done where necessary.

Deer Feed Alternatives

There are commercial deer pellets available in stores that can be fed to deer. These pellets have nutritional contents that support deer growth and development. These supplements are encouraged to be used in addition to natural foods from fruits and vegetables. There are many fruits and vegetables around back yards which can be given to deer to eat. All that is important is to make sure that you balance the diet and give attention to deer feed requirements as seasons change. All feeds given to these animals should be done gradually to give them time to adapt to the new diet.


Deer will eat almost anything they find including dog food. Starvation will also force them to eat dog food but feeding of dog food to deer is not recommended. When dog food is given to deer, it should be done in such a way that it does not result in negative impact on their health.