Gun dogs need a high protein diet to fuel their time in the field.

Hunting dogs are loyal working companions out in the field with their owners burning off calories. They spend a lot of time outdoors through inclement weather such as rain and snow. Because of the amount of energy gun dogs exert when working, their diet is vitally important.


What is the best hunting dog food?

The best diet for an active hunting dog is a diet high in protein, fat and nutrients. The protein and fat are used by the body as fuel while working and as energy to keep dogs warm while they are out in the elements. The nutrients help support the overall health and wellness of dogs. 

Research has indicated that at least 30% protein and 20% fat is a good ratio for a hunting dog food, fueling your canine athlete’s maximum performance.

A raw diet like Vital Essentials has the perfect blend of fat, protein and vital nutrients to support the metabolic needs of hunting dogs. Vital Essentials diets for dogs are available in frozen and freeze-dried varieties and in several protein sources including Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Rabbit, Duck and Salmon. This allows you to custom-pick the food with the right blend of fat and protein to support your hunting dog out in the field.

For example, our best-selling Freeze-Dried Beef Mini Nibs contain 36% protein and 32% fat, an ideal ratio in food for hunting dogs. If your dog’s nutritional needs require a bigger protein boost, consider our Freeze-Dried Chicken Mini Nibs, which contain 50% protein and 21% fat. All Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Mini Nibs can be served as a whole meal the night before the hunt, or a convenient high-protein treat while out in the field.

Before making any significant dietary changes, consult with your veterinarian or canine nutritionist to determine the most appropriate diet for your dog’s age, weight, body condition and activity level.


best food for hunting dogs

What’s the difference between “high performance” and normal dog food?

Many dog food brands release a “high performance” or “sport” dog food, which contains a higher percentage of protein than their main products. These “high performance” foods are typically 30% protein or more.

Vital Essentials does not release a “high performance” line because, quite simply, all our products are high performance! All Vital Essentials dog food products contain at least 30% protein by dry weight, with some over 50%. There’s no need to seek out “high performance” dog food for hunting dogs when your everyday dog food from Vital Essentials is already this good!

Should hunting dog food be wet or dry?

Hydration is extremely important for the health of your hunting dog — and not just in the field, but in the hours and days leading up to it, too. 

Wet food helps to ensure your hunting dog is staying hydrated. For example, adding water to any of our Freeze-Dried Dinner Patties results in a pate-like meal with plenty of moisture. However, that doesn’t mean you have to feed your hunting dog wet food. If they prefer the crunch of dry food, simply ensure they always have access to clean drinking water so they can stay well-hydrated.


When is it best to feed a hunting dog?

Before hunting

When it comes to feeding your hunting dog before heading out to the field, a good rule of thumb is to feed your dog a calorie-packed meal at least twelve hours before hunting. That translates to a hearty, early dinner the night before the hunt. The reason it’s best to wait so long is because it takes about twelve hours for your dog to fully digest the food you give them, and to have all those good calories available to burn when they get to work.

The morning of the hunt, you’re probably eating a big breakfast yourself to prepare for the day. It’s logical to think your dog shouldn’t hunt on an empty stomach — but actually, experts recommend that your hunting dog skip breakfast on the day of the hunt.

Your pup won’t have enough time to digest their breakfast and have that energy available to use in the field, so breakfast doesn’t help and can even make your hunting dog feel unwell. When hunting dogs are working out in the field, their adrenaline kicks in. If your dog has a full belly of food, the excitement can often cause unpleasant side effects for your pup, like vomiting or diarrhea.

You know your dog best, however, and if no breakfast at all is unreasonable for your situation, then at least make sure it’s a light breakfast and that you feed your dog at least an hour before leaving to hunt.


best food for hunting dogs

During hunting

During the hunt, high-value snacks and treats make fantastic rewards for your gun dog’s hard work — but don’t overindulge until the day is done!

Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Dog Treats are the perfect high-protein snack, and are available in a variety of protein sources to entice your hound. Our Chicken Hearts, Duck Nibs, Beef Nibs, Minnows and Rabbit Bites are so popular among dog families that they come in a larger bag so dogs don’t run out so quickly!

After hunting

After a long day out in the field locating, running and retrieving game, your loyal hunting dog deserves a reward and a good meal! Just like the night before, feed your hunting dog a big meal rich in protein and fat to repair their muscles and recover from the day’s workout.

Of course, you’ll also want to give your hardworking pup a special snack to praise them for a job well done — and there’s no better reward for a hunting dog than some hearty VE RAW BAR single ingredient snacks like Duck Heads, Pig Ears and Bully Sticks

VE RAW BAR is available in select stores, so find a VE RAW BAR retailer near you!


best food for hunting dogs

Food for hunting dogs
: The bottom line

Hunting dogs are hardworking canines who love what they do, and love doing it with you!

Like all athletes, hunting dogs require the right diet for peak performance. Hunting dog food should be high in protein and fat, and packed with all the essential nutrients that canine bodies need. With at least 30% protein in every bite, a complete and balanced raw meat diet from Vital Essentials fuels your hunting dog with ‘only the good stuff’ — the raw meat, bone and vital organs providing all the biologically appropriate nutrition that your carnivore needs to hunt like his ancestors.



Do you love watching hunting shows or learning about new products from guys in the field? We’re happy to say that earlier this year, Vital Essentials was featured on Gun Dog TV. Watch it on The Outdoor Channel and you may catch an episode featuring our CEO, Lanny Viegut, having a blast with the Gun Dog TV cast and crew! 

For more tips to keep your hunting dog at peak performance, check out our blog and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and PinterestWe also invite you to subscribe to our email list for special savings and offers throughout the year!


Originally published on 03/15/2021 and updated on 11/17/2021.