Last Updated on January 21, 2023
Hunting dogs are like elite athletes. They require top nutrition to keep them working and performing at their best.
You need to be careful about what you feed these dogs and how much, not only to ensure they can do their job but also to avoid many common health problems.
Let’s compare some of the best dog foods for hunting canines, taking a closer look at their pros and cons.
Top 5 Picks for Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs
|Dog Food Recipes for
|Best Overall Dog Food for Hunting Dogs||Orijen Original Dry Dog Food
|Best Budget Dog Food for Hunting Dogs||Taste of the Wild High Prairie
|Best Dog Food for Hunting Breed Puppies||Victor Grain-Free For Active Dog & Puppy
|Dog Dog Food for Hunting Adult Dogs||CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE LID Lamb and Pea Recipe
|Dog Dog Food for Hunting Senior Dogs||Eukanuba Senior Maintenance Dog Food
Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs (by Life Stage)
The food you give hunting dogs should supply their muscular bodies with the optimum levels of protein and fat while being calorie-dense to keep their energy levels up while on the hunt.
It should also include a precise blend of micro-nutrients that support the immune and digestive systems while keeping the bones and joints strong.
Before we look at some of the frequently asked questions regarding picking dog food for your hunting pup, let’s look at some of the best foods on the market.
Best Dog Food for Hunting Breed Puppies
Do you have a hunting dog in the making? You can help give him the best start in life by providing him with a high protein, high fat, high-performance food right from the get-go.
Here are three of our favorite foods for hunting breed puppies:
1. Victor Grain-Free For Active Dog & Puppy
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Beef Meal, Peas, Sweet Potato
A grain-free dry dog food designed for puppies and active dogs, Victor Grain-Free Recipe offers 384 calories per cup with protein coming from chicken fat, pork, beef, and fish meal.
This food also includes a range of supplements to sustain your pet’s energy levels, including dried vegetables and chelated minerals.
- This food has been fortified with probiotics to aid with digestion
- Made in the USA, the food is comprised of 77% meat protein
- It’s suitable for pregnant and lactating female dogs as well as puppies of all breed sizes
- Some pet owners said the kibble size was too big for their puppy
2. American Journey Lamb & Sweet Potato Puppy Recipe
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Lamb, Chicken Meal (a source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Turkey Meal
This grain-free American Journey Recipe has been specifically for puppies and features good quality protein from lamb, chicken, and turkey.
Plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables are included in the recipe, such as sweet potatoes and chickpeas for energy and carrots, dried kelp, and blueberries for antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients.
- This food is rich in omega-three fatty acids like DHA from salmon oil and flaxseed for eye health, and brain development
- Contains no corn, wheat, or soy
- Some pet owners complained that this food had a strong smell
Best Dog Food for Hunting Adult Dogs
Raising the perfect hunting dog takes a lot of effort and money.
You’ll do anything to keep your dog fit and healthy, and part of that means providing him with an excellent diet to suit all his nutritional needs.
Buying the best dog food for your pet should be a priority, but it’s often challenging to pick the right one.
Here are some of our top choices for your adult hunting dog:
3. Victor Super Premium Pet Food Hi-Pro Plus
Our rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols)
The Victor Super Premium Dry Dog Food is made up of 88% protein from high-quality animal sources such as beef meal, chicken fat, chicken meal, and fish meal.
The recipe, which has been explicitly formulated for high-performance dogs, contains 20% fat and calorie content of 406 kcal per cup.
- A good source of omega oils to support your dog’s immune system and keep his coat looking and feeling great
- The recipe contains selenium yeast which acts to support your pet’s immune system
- It contains prebiotics and probiotics to aid with digestion
- Some dogs, including a Boxer, developed allergies to this diet
4. Taste of the Wild High Prairie
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal
The Taste of the Wild High Prairie Recipe is a high-energy dog food that offers hunting pups 370kcal per cup.
The 32% protein content comes from a range of sources, including water buffalo, lamb meal, chicken meal, egg, beef, roasted venison, and ocean fish meal, and is ideal for building strong, lean muscle mass.
This grain-free recipe is also designed to be highly digestible.
- The recipe is packed with antioxidants from a range of fruits and veggies like peas, sweet potatoes, and blueberries to support your dog’s immune system
- It contains zinc, selenium, and Vitamin E, all of which work to bolster your dog’s immune system further
- Some pet owners complained their dogs had a very soft stool on this diet
5. Orijen Original Dry Dog Food
Our rating: 5
Top Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Flounder
A grain-free formula offering 473 kcal per cup, 18% fat, and 38% protein from quality sources like chicken, turkey, flounder, mackerel, chicken liver, turkey giblets, herring, eggs, and chicken fat.
The recipe is designed to mimic what your pet might have eaten in the wild and so includes no grain or tapioca.
However, it includes some fantastic superfoods like pumpkin, lentils, collard greens, apples, pears, cranberries, dried kelp, and juniper berries.
- Added glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate help support your dog’s joints
- It includes DHA and EPA for heart health and mental stability
- Some dogs just didn’t want to touch this food
6. Purina Pro Plan Sport Performance 30/20 Formula (Chicken & Rice)
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Chicken, Corn Gluten Meal, Rice
This dry dog food offers canines highly concentrated nutrition with 30% protein, 20% fat, and 484kcal per cup.
Chicken is the primary ingredient, while various antioxidant-rich ingredients are also included in the recipe to support your dog’s immune system.
- Glucosamine has been added to keep your pet’s joints healthy
- The recipe has been enhanced with essential vitamins, amino acids, and minerals to support your dog’s whole-body health
- This food is rich in DHA and EPA omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to support the brain, heart, skin, coat, and immune system
- Some pet owners, and their dogs, didn’t like the smell of this food
7. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe High Protein Dog Food (Bison)
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Bison, Beef Meal, Fish Meal
This high-protein dog food offers your pet 30% protein from real bison, as well as beef and fish meal.
The grain-free recipe offers carbohydrate content in the form of peas, potatoes, and carrots. It will supply your dog with 386kcal per cup.
- Antioxidant-rich ingredients like blueberries and cranberries are included in the recipe to help with fighting disease
- The recipe contains a careful blend of vitamins, calcium, and phosphorus to keep your pet’s bones and teeth strong and healthy
- This food, unfortunately, made one reviewer’s pup very sick
8. Nutro Dog Food with Proteins from Chicken
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Brown Rice
This dog food is made from a trio of proteins, including chicken, lamb, and salmon. Offering a calorie content of 341kcal per cup, it’s specifically designed for active, adult dogs.
The recipe also contains various superfoods like vine-grown tomatoes, orchard-picked apples, and sun-ripened blueberries to provide your dog with plenty of vitamins and minerals.
- The recipe contains plenty of omega oils for maintaining healthy skin and a shiny coat
- Calcium and phosphorus are included for strong bones and teeth
- The recipe is free from any GMO ingredients, such as corn, wheat, and soy
- Some picky eaters refused to touch this food
9. Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Buffalo and Sweet Potato)
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Buffalo, Chicken Meal, Potatoes
Made from buffalo and sweet potatoes, Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food has been created specifically with hunting dogs in mind. It delivers 342 calories per cup with a protein content of 38%.
The recipe contains only whole foods and contains prebiotics to make it easily digestible for your dog.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been added to support your bones, joints, and mobility
- Rich in omega oils to keep your dog’s coat healthy
- Some dogs with allergies didn’t react well to this food, likely due to the inclusion of chicken meal in the recipe
10. Canidae Grain-Free Pure Dry Dog Food (Lamb & Pea)
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Lamb, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal
The Canidae Lamb & Pea Recipe is a limited-ingredient diet that’s ideal for pups with food sensitivities.
This dry dog food contains 32% protein from lamb, turkey, chicken, and fish and offers a whopping 509kcal per cup.
The grain-free recipe offers easily digestible carbohydrate content in the form of sweet potatoes and peas.
- The recipe is formulated with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to support healthy joints
- Added probiotics help to aid digestion and support a healthy gut
- Some dogs turned their noses up at this food
Best Dog Food for Hunting Senior Dogs
Has your dog reached his senior years? Is he slowing down a little?
You still want to provide your pet with the best nutrition, but his calorie intake will have changed.
Your dog’s food should now also offer additional support for those aging bones and joints.
Here are two excellent foods for elderly hunting dogs:
11. Eukanuba Senior Maintenance Dog Food
Our rating: 5
Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Wheat
The Eukanuba Senior Maintenance Dog Food is a premium kibble specifically formulated for dogs over the age of seven that weigh between 24 and 54 pounds (11 and 24 kg).
It offers plenty of protein from chicken to support lean muscles while offering 330kcal per cup.
- Added glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate help keep your aging pet mobile
- The food is formulated with high levels of DHA and antioxidants to support the immune system and keep the mind young
- This is one of the more expensive products on the market
12. American Journey Chicken & Sweet Potato Senior Recipe
Our rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal (a source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Turkey Meal
This dry dog food has been specifically formulated to support the needs of hunting dogs in their senior years.
The grain-free recipe is balanced with real chicken as the main ingredient and extra protein from turkey and beet pulp.
Various fruits and vegetables also supply your pet with nutrients, including blueberries, sweet potatoes, peas, pumpkins, and carrots.
- This food offers excellent value for the price
- The recipe contains coconut oil whose medium-chain triglycerides help bolster brain health in aging dogs
- This food contains a variety of common allergens such as chicken and potatoes
Understanding the Right Nutrition for Hunting Dogs
While the different breeds of hunting dogs have different builds and abilities, they are all typically very energetic, active canines.
They require certain nutrients to keep them happy, healthy, and working and so need a high-performance diet that caters to their needs.
Hunting dogs require premium food that supports their lean bodies, high-energy levels, and sustained work periods.
The food you give a working dog should be calorie-dense and packed full of protein.
It should also contain good fat levels and other micro-nutrients that are necessary to support a healthy metabolism.
Activity Levels & Dietary Requirements for Hunting Dogs
You need to match your pet’s food to their energy levels so that you ensure your dog isn’t taking in too many or too few calories for the energy they’re expending.
It’s best to consult with your vet in this regard, as your vet will be best placed to advise on the proper diet for your dog’s breed, weight, size, age, and health.
If you feed your dog too much or food that has too many calories, this could lead to him becoming obese.
On the reverse side, if your dog isn’t getting enough calories, he may not perform his job efficiently and could suffer from malnutrition.
Hunting dogs also need quality food that gives them long-term fuel rather than short bursts of energy.
Types of Hunting Dogs
Hunting breeds come in a wide range of sizes, breeds, and activity requirements.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for hunting dogs, but these breeds can typically be grouped into three different groups, including the following:
1. Hounds: Hounds use their speed, noses, and eyes for hunting large games. These medium to large breeds are built for endurance over long distances.
They usually have a very good sense of smell and a loud bark and hunt animals like deer, boar, raccoons, coyotes, and even bears.
2. Terriers: The smallest hunting dogs; these breeds are used for catching rabbits, squirrels, rats, foxes, birds, and other small game.
3. Gun Dogs: These large breed dogs are used to frighten hidden games so that a proper shot can be lined up. They are also used for retrieving animals, for instance, ducks, from water.
Hunting Dog Breeds
A variety of dog breeds were developed for hunting purposes. Different breeds are used for tracking, retrieving, sighting, and flushing out animals.
Here are some of the standard hunting dog breeds:
Hunting Dog Food Buyer’s Guide
To help fuel your active hunting dog, you’ll need to provide him with high-quality dog food.
This food should have the perfect balance of proteins, fats, carbs, and calories to support your dog’s lifestyle.
But it can be challenging to choose the right food when faced with so many options. Here are some key things to look for:
What is the difference between high-performance and regular dog food?
A high-performance diet is designed to provide high-energy canines with higher levels of protein and fat than what is usually found in ordinary dog food.
Working dogs should have a diet that consists of at least 30% protein and 20% fat.
High-performance diets are also designed with ingredients to keep your pup alert for extended periods.
They also boost the immune system, provide for rapid recovery, and promote lean muscle development.
As a result, most high-performance diets include elevated levels of omega oils, antioxidants, and calcium.
On the other hand, everyday dog foods focus on keeping the skin and coat looking fabulous, promoting healthy digestion, and sustaining moderate energy levels.
What are dietary considerations & common health problems in hunting dogs?
Due to their active lifestyles, hunting dogs are typically relatively healthy animals.
However, certain hunting dog breeds are predisposed to developing certain health conditions.
Some of these health issues can be prevented or helped through diet. They include the following:
1. Joint Problems: Many large dog breeds suffer from elbow or hip dysplasia. These diseases can cause pain and lead to arthritis.
Although typically inherited from the parent dogs, excessive wear and tear or injury can also bring on hip dysplasia or make it worse.
Foods that contain joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate will help.
To put extra pressure on the joints, you also want to ensure your dog isn’t overeating to the point where he becomes obese.
This is a problem with senior hunting dogs that probably aren’t exercising as much as they once did. Any extra weight can put a lot of strain on the joints.
2. Digestive Issues: Many hunting dog breeds have deep, narrow chests. These dogs are prone to developing bloat, a condition in which the stomach twists or becomes enlarged, and can be fatal.
The breeds most likely to develop this condition include Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers.
To prevent bloat, you shouldn’t exercise your dog within two hours of eating. Some dog owners also say that feeding your dog a diet of natural ingredients can help prevent bloat.
You should thus avoid foods that have corn, wheat, soy, or are packed full of artificial colors, artificial flavors, and preservatives.
3. Infections: As hunting dogs spend a lot of time running around outdoors, they are prone to picking up illnesses, such as Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks.
For this reason, you want to keep your dog’s immune system as strong as possible.
Foods with antioxidant-rich ingredients like blueberries will work to bolster your pup’s immune system.
4. Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemic attacks occur when a dog has low blood sugar. Prolonged or repeated episodes can be particularly dangerous.
Prolonged activity without sufficient food can lead to this condition. This is caused by your dog’s body depleting its glycogen as an alternative energy source.
That is why high-performance dog food with high protein and fat levels is so crucial for hunting dogs.
If your dog starts to show signs of hypoglycemia, you can also give him some corn syrup or a vitamin supplement.
5. Hypothermia: Hypothermia happens when your dog suffers from extremely low body temperatures.
Muscle stiffening, shallow breathing, shivering, and a mentally distanced dog are all signs of hypothermia.
To bring your dog’s body temperature up, you can lay him on a heating pad, cover him in blankets, or a vet can give him warm IV fluids.
You can prevent hypothermia with a doggie jacket and plenty of breaks indoors.
If it’s too cold, you may want to skip your hunt. The additional fat content of high-performance dog food will help your pet to keep warm.
6. Blastomycosis: This is a type of fungus commonly found in forests, swamps, and marshes where geese and game birds frequent.
While bird dogs use this fungus to pick up on scents, it does go up to their nose and can cause illness.
Symptoms include lethargy, a cough, and open seeping wounds.
7. Cyanobacteria: This is the type of bacteria found in the scum of fresh water and seawater. It’s usually found in warm water at the end of summer, which is also prime bird hunting season.
These bacteria blooms can be deadly if ingested by your dog. If you see your dog vomiting or convulsing, be sure to take him to the vet immediately.
To prevent contamination, be sure to provide your dog with plenty of fresh drinking water when hunting to ensure he doesn’t drink any pond water.
You should also avoid stinky, stagnant water and try and rinse your dog after he has been for a swim.
What should hunting dogs eat?
There are several key ingredients you need to look at when selecting food for your hunting dog. The first thing is protein.
High-quality protein is necessary for building strong muscles. Protein should feature as the first ingredient in your dog’s food and should come from high-quality real meat sources.
Sporting dogs also require food with a high-fat content as fats provide these dogs with a longer-lasting source of energy, helping with endurance.
Fish oil is an excellent fat that will also provide your dog with plenty of omega oils to keep his skin and coat in top condition.
Your dog also needs to be able to absorb the nutrients from their food sufficiently.
To do this efficiently, your dog needs to be taking in adequate amounts of fiber content. Your dog’s diet should also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals to boost your dog’s overall health.
The best foods will also have balanced calcium and phosphorus levels for building strong bones and teeth, added glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to support joint health and mobility, and probiotics and prebiotics, which aid in healthy digestion.
Ingredients to avoid include meat by-products, which likely contain many bones, rather than high-quality muscle meat.
Also, avoid foods full of artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. Natural alternatives that are ok for your dog include ascorbate (vitamin C) and tocopherols (vitamin E).
Should you give your hunting dog dry or wet food?
In addition to feeding your hunting dog a balanced diet, you also need to provide him with plenty of fresh water, particularly if you feed him dry kibble. Water will keep your dog hydrated as he performs his grueling tasks.
When it comes to giving your dog dry food or canned food, it is a matter of personal preference. The main differences between these two foods are the water content and the carbohydrate content.
Canned food has more water content and fewer filler carbohydrates but is more expensive and difficult to store once opened.
Dried food can be bought in bulk and is thus more cost-effective but typically includes more filler ingredients.
Should hunting dogs have a grain-free diet?
Many high-performance dog foods are grain-free; however, if your dog is not prone to allergies, there is nothing wrong with including whole grains in his diet.
Brown rice and barley are great complex carbohydrates, while the sweet potato is a wonderful alternative for dogs that suffer from digestive issues.
You should avoid foods with processed grains and gluten, which can cause bloating and don’t provide any nutrient value to your dog.
However, some carbohydrate supplements in grain-free diets also have a possible link to heart disease, and the FDA is currently investing a link between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy in canines.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much should you feed a hunting dog?
A hunting dog will typically eat between four and six cups of high-quality dog food each day.
At the end of hunting season, you may need to adjust this amount if you plan to keep your pet on a high-performance diet as he won’t be getting the same amount of exercise, and the caloric intake could be too high.
How often should you feed a hunting dog?
One meal a day usually is sufficient for dogs as they don’t typically suffer from low blood pressure as humans do. Dogs rely on fat and not sugars and carbohydrates to support their energy levels.
Thus, it is best to feed your dog in the evening after he has calmed down from a good hunting session or 24 hours before an intense session.
How can you get your hunting dog to gain weight?
If your dog has a calorie deficit that’s causing him to lose weight, you can try feeding him twice at night. You can also give him high-fat snacks that won’t fill him up but help bolster his energy reserves.
You can also supplement his daily dog food with additional fat from coconut oil, olive oil, or powdered pork. Just be sure not to overdo it, or your dog could develop a disease like pancreatitis.
Don’t miss out: Best Dog Food for Dogs with Pancreatitis
When should you feed your hunting dog?
You should always feed your dog after hunting as they need time to digest a meal before any exercise properly.
It takes 20-24 hours for a dog’s dinner to fully digest, and your pet’s endurance is enhanced on an empty stomach.
When a dog is fed about 17 hours before any work, they use fat as energy, giving them a lasting supply of energy.
When shouldn’t you feed him?
You might think that giving your dog a big meal before heading out sounds like a good plan, but the reverse is true.
Be sure not to feed your dog at least two hours before a hunting session to avoid bloat, also known as gastric dilation/volvulus syndrome. This is a life-threatening condition that can kill your dog.
The signs and symptoms of bloat include shallow, rapid breathing, belching or vomiting without bringing anything up, and a swollen abdomen that feels hard. Male dogs over the age of seven years are most at risk.
Also, dogs that eat within four hours before hunting have shown a reduction in performance. Combining exercise with a full colon can also irritate the intestine lining and lead to digestive problems.
Can you give homemade food to your hunting dog?
Hunting dogs have specific energy and nutritional needs. Many homemade dog food recipes lack the proper micronutrients that these dogs require.
Going for homemade dog food could see your pet with severe nutrient deficiencies.
These types of diets need to be correctly planned, working hand in hand with a vet or animal nutrition specialist to ensure you have a balanced combination of proteins, fiber sources, and fruits and vegetables.
Should you give raw food to your hunting dog?
There are many advantages to a raw food diet. Due to a lack of cooking, raw foods maintain many nutrients.
Raw dog food is, however, a great high-protein option for hunting dogs if you have the time and know-how on how to prepare it properly.
That said, raw food diets carry the risk of food-borne illnesses, and if it isn’t stored correctly or is bought from an uncontrolled source, it can cause disease.
Keeping up a raw food diet can also be demanding as you constantly need access to fresh, quality ingredients.
Talk to Your Vet Before Choosing Any New Food For Your Hunting Dog
You want to keep your hunting dog in top-notch condition. All that time, money, and effort that goes into training your dog could be wasted if you’re not supplying him with the proper nutrition.
Feeding your hunting dog high-performance food will allow you to get the most out of him.
Before you make any change to your pet’s diet, it’s wise to consult with your vet regarding the nutritional requirements for your specific dog.
You also want to make any change to your dog’s diet gradually, swapping out their current food for their new high-performance food little by little. This is because dogs have sensitive stomachs, and a sudden change can lead to diarrhea.
There are plenty of great high-performance dog food options available on Amazon and Chewy. The above 12 are some of our favorites. What food do you love for your hunting dog? Let us know in the comments below.