10 Best Dog Food For Hunting Dogs (2020 Review)

Mike PowellEdited by: Mike Powell
Abby TexasReviewed by: Abby Texas

Last Update:

If you’re passionate about hunting and a proud parent of a hunting dog, there’s no reason your fluffy active best friend can’t join you out there in the hunt!

A highly active lifestyle calls for a high-quality fuel, so if this is something you and your pooch do often, you should be feeding your pup only the best to keep them on the go. 

Whether your bestie is a terrier, a hound, or a retriever, we’ve got something on this list that will suit them. The best dog food for hunting dogs should be of premium quality, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in every product here. 

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10 Best Dog Food For Hunting Dogs

Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Recipe

Best Value for Money

Overall Rating93%
Fat Count & Quality95%
Carbohydrate Quality95%
Protein Count & Quality90%
Extra Additions90%
Affordability95%

PROS

  • Extremely affordable for its fantastic quality 
  • Contains a nice dose of glucosamine and chondroitin 
  • Great quality slow-burning carbohydrates 
  • Perfect protein and fat counts for an active hunting dog 

CONS

  • May not be suitable for pups who are sensitive to chicken 

Pet parents who budget, this one’s for you. You’ll find everything your hunting dog needs and more in this food, and it won’t break the bank – in fact, it’s just slightly over a dollar per pound of kibble. The name says it all – your hunting dog will thrive on this recipe. 

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Top Range Quality 

For a lower-priced food, you may be surprised at the premium quality of the stuff that’s in this food. Chicken meal is ingredient number one but it’s closely followed by whole chicken, which are great protein bases for a recipe. 

There’s a ton of easily digestible carbs in this food, including superfoods like kale, quinoa, and coconut. Pumpkin is a great slow-burning veggie which will provide some sustained energy, as will rice. 

32% protein and 25% fat are pretty perfect for a hunting dog, and when you add the fact that there’s also glucosamine and chondroitin in there, some really high Omega fatty acid counts, vitamin A and E, and L-carnitine, it’s easy to see that this food is on par with any of the big name brands. 

Canidae Pure Real Limited Ingredient Recipe Range 

Best Limited Ingredient Option

Overall Rating91%
Fat Count & Quality85%
Carbohydrate Quality90%
Protein Count & Quality95%
Extra Additions95%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Variety of flavours available, making it easy to avoid ingredients that may be a problem 
  • Good levels of glucosamine and chondroitin in all recipes 
  • Slow-burning carbohydrates for extra energy 
  • Great Omega fatty acid levels for extra immune support 

CONS

  • Fat content may be a little low for active dogs 

A limited ingredient diet doesn’t mean limited nutritional value. If your pup is sensitive to certain ingredients and you want a food that is made of as few ingredients as possible, this recipe range will serve you well.

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Flavour Variety 

Your pooch will not get bored, even with their food intolerances, if they eat from this range. Their recipes include Bison, Chicken, Duck, Lamb, Salmon, Wild Boar, and Lamb, Goat, & Venison, as well as chicken flavours for puppies, seniors, and weigh management. 

Protein & Fat Counts 

Each recipe contains decent carbs for long-term energy, but they vary a little in protein and fat content. You’ll need to check out the guaranteed analysis of each food if you’re thinking of changing flavour, because some contain around 25% protein, and others up to 32%. 

The fat content varies too, with a couple in the lower teens. The best fat contents are found in the chicken, lamb, and salmon flavours. 

Orijen High-Protein Dry Dog Food

Premium Option

Overall Rating90%
Fat Count & Quality90%
Carbohydrate Quality90%
Protein Count & Quality95%
Extra Additions95%
Affordability85%

PROS

  • High in protein and with added joint supplements 
  • High-quality ingredient list 
  • Flavour variety that includes choices without poultry 
  • Grain-free & potato-free 

CONS

  • May be too low in fat for highly active dogs 
  • Somewhat pricey 

Orijen is known as biologically appropriate nutrition, which means this kibble is made of all the good stuff your pet would be chewing on if they lived in the wild. It contains all the necessary stuff to keep your hunting dog’s energy levels high, muscles maintained, and joints strong.

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High Protein & Fairly High Fat 

All 3 of the recipes contain 38% protein and 18% fat, which are decent numbers for most hunting dogs. If you find your pup is running out of energy during the hunt, you can feed them a few high-fat treats after their dinner to make up for this. 

The two non-chicken flavours also contain no hidden poultry, which makes them super for dogs who may be sensitive to it. They’re all grain-free and potato-free too, so this food would be perfect for just about all hunting dogs. 

Acana Puppy & Junior

Best For Puppies Learning To Hunt

Overall Rating90%
Fat Count & Quality95%
Carbohydrate Quality85%
Protein Count & Quality90%
Extra Additions95%
Affordability85%

PROS

  • High-quality ingredient list 
  • Premium levels of protein and fats for a growing puppy 
  • Contains DHA and EPA for optimal development 
  • Nice Omega fatty acid and joint supplement levels 

CONS

  • Not suitable for puppies who can’t tolerate chicken, peas, or lentils 

It’s never too early to start teaching your little one to hunt, and this is the perfect puppy food to feed them while they’re learning. It’s high (but not too high) in protein, has a really nice amount of fat, and contains a lot of healthy additions.

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Puppy-Specific Extras 

You’ll find the necessary DHA for brain and eye health, as well as EPA, which is a fatty acid that has many benefits. The Omega levels are right where they should be, and there’s a nice dose of joint-strengthening supplements which is helpful even from an early age. 

Victor Classic Hi-Pro Plus

Best Without Joint Supplements

Overall Rating90%
Fat Count & Quality95%
Carbohydrate Quality85%
Protein Count & Quality90%
Extra Additions90%
Affordability90%

PROS

  • Great protein and fat levels for hunting dogs 
  • Good Omega fat levels for extra immune support 
  • Contains DHa and L-carnitine, which are awesome supplements 
  • One of the most affordable on the market 

CONS

  • Not suitable for dogs who have ingredient sensitivities due to the presence of multiple proteins

If you prefer to use a separate glucosamine supplement, you may want a food that doesn’t contain a supplement in it. This one delivers on the nutrients and the numbers and won’t add any extra joint stuff. 

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Superb Nutrients Minus Glucosamine 

You’ll find perfect protein and fats in this food (30% and 25%), as well as nice Omegas, DHA, vitamin e, and L-carnitine, which is great to regulate energy. 

Acana Singles Range

Best For Hunters With Food Sensitivities

Overall Rating90%
Fat Count & Quality85%
Carbohydrate Quality90%
Protein Count & Quality95%
Extra Additions95%
Affordability85%

PROS

  • Wide variety of recipes so it’s easy to find something for your hunter 
  • Comprehensive recipes with plenty of added extras 
  • Fairly limited ingredient to prevent food sensitivities 
  • Grain and gluten-free, as well as potato-free 

CONS

  • Pricey 
  • Slightly lower in fat than is preferable 

If your hound reacts badly to certain ingredients, this range is the perfect way to ensure that he gets a healthy meal while still having a choice of flavours to prevent boredom.

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Great Flavours, Great Quality 

You can choose from 5 different flavours, and avoid ingredients that your dog doesn’t like. Each is high-protein (from organ meat, muscle meat, cartilage, and bone), contains botanical inclusions, DHA and EPA, and glucosamine, making this good for dogs of all life stages. 

Diamond Naturals Recipes 

Best Lower-Protein Option

Overall Rating90%
Fat Count & Quality85%
Carbohydrate Quality90%
Protein Count & Quality90%
Extra Additions90%
Affordability95%

PROS

  • Lower in protein but still have decent fat counts for energy 
  • Super affordable 
  • Contain joint supplements 
  • Great levels of Omega fatty acids for an extra fat boost 

CONS

  • May be too low in fat for some dogs (a high-fat treat is great as an additional supplement) 

If your dog happens to suffer from kidney or liver problems, it may be that their vet has recommended a low-protein diet. The trouble with low-protein diets is finding one that still contains a decent amount of fat to provide for a hunting dog’s energy levels and activity, but the offerings from Diamond Naturals are some of the better options out there. 

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Protein and Fat Content 

This recipe sits at 25% protein, which is lower than usual for a hunting dog, and 15% fat, which is lower than a hunting dog should be having. If 25% is still too high for your pooch, this recipe contains 22%, but only 12% fat. 

If it’s not hunting season, this shouldn’t be a problem. If it is, you may want to add a high-fat kibble topper or a couple of high-fat treats, or use a separate supplement. 

Great Extras  

For a food that is so well-priced, these recipes contain some super stuff. You’ll find decent Omega 3 and 6 levels, joint supplements, vitamin A and E, and the lower protein recipe also has a nice little dose of L-carnitine, which is great for energy regulation. 

Orijen Senior Recipe 

Best For Seniors Who Still Hunt

Overall Rating89%
Fat Count & Quality85%
Carbohydrate Quality90%
Protein Count & Quality90%
Extra Additions95%
Affordability85%

PROS

  • High in protein and decent in fat for seniors 
  • Contain DHA and EPA, great for older dogs 
  • Great levels of supplements to keep aging joints tough 
  • Nice Omega fatty acids 

CONS

  • Somewhat pricey 
  • May need to add some high-fat snacks for seniors who are still very active 

If your hunter is aging but still active, this food will keep them going and provide extra supplements to keep them as strong as possible.

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Numbers & Supplements for Seniors 

There’s 38% protein and 5% fat here, and if your older pup is still very active, they may need a supplemental fat dose to keep their energy up. 

You’ll find lovely doses of DHA and EPA, Omegas, and joint supplements, all of which are fantastic for older dogs to maintain their health and wellness. 

Stella & Chewy’s Hip & Joint Boost

Best Kibble Topper

Overall Rating87%
Fat Count & Quality85%
Carbohydrate Quality85%
Protein Count & Quality95%
Extra Additions95%
Affordability85%

PROS

  • High in protein and fats, perfect as an addition to normal kibble 
  • Plenty of useful additions, including joint supplements 
  • Raw nutrition is easily digested by most dogs 
  • Premium quality ingredient list 

CONS

  • Slightly pricey 
  • Only available in chicken flavour (other flavours are different recipes and don’t contain joint supplements, although they have their own benefits)

A kibble topper is super if you need to add some extra calories to your pup’s diet and add some extra taste and texture. This one is aimed at giving the joints and extra boost, which is fantastic for hunting dogs.

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High Protein, Fat, & Great Extras 

This kibble topper is raw food that contains 40% protein. That’s a significant nutritional value, as well as the 23% fat which will go a long way towards keeping your pup energised. 

Extras in a kibble topper are less common, so this one really stands out. This recipe contains a dash of DHA and EPA, extra vitamin E, lovely Omega 3s, and best of all, L-carnitine to assist with metabolism and energy regulation, and glucosamine and chondroitin for joint strength.

Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Dry Dog Food Recipes

Runner-Up Option

Overall Rating87%
Fat Count & Quality85%
Carbohydrate Quality90%
Protein Count & Quality90%
Extra Additions90%
Affordability80%

PROS

  • Premium quality ingredient lists on every flavour 
  • High in protein from good sources 
  • Contains slow-burning carbs 
  • Good levels of joint-strengthening supplements

CONS

  • None of the recipes are poultry-free (although one does contain turkey instead of chicken) 
  • Somewhat pricey 

These raw-infused recipes are high in all the good things, contain no grains or gluten, and have some of the highest Omega fatty acid counts. If your dog enjoys the raw flavour and texture, this would be an awesome option.

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Variety of Recipes, with Glucosamine 

Choose between 6 different recipes (or a puppy recipe or a large breed-specific recipe). They’re all slightly different, although the nutrients are very similar (38% protein, 17% fat, some of the highest Omega levels, and a great splash of glucosamine for joints). 

This is a kibble/raw mix, which means it has a little something extra to a normal kibble. There are some freeze-dried raw bits mixed into the dry kibble, which are super digestible, minimally processed, packed with nutrition, and add a little bit of texture and taste that normal kibble wouldn’t otherwise have. 


Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation

brown hunting dog on field

Criteria 1 – Fat Count & Quality

When it comes to producing energy, fat is the single most important nutrient for dogs. It may sound backward, but it’s true – it’s the most quickly and easily processed by your pup’s body, providing an easy-to-access abundance of energy, which is especially important for active hunting dogs. 

Animal fats are the number one choice here and should be the first fat seen on any great food for hunting dogs. Take note that they should be named and identified, such as “chicken fat” or “pork fat”. Anything worded in general terms, like “animal fat” or “poultry fat” is best avoided. 

You should choose food containing about 20% fat. You can go a fair bit higher if your hound is very active. 

Criteria 2 – Carbohydrate Quality

You don’t often see carb content on a dog food label, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Fats are the more essential nutrient when it comes to energy production, but it’s still imperative that you select a food containing high-quality carbohydrates. 

Carbs help regulate your pet’s blood sugar, and so although you don’t need to pay much attention to the percentage of them in the food, it’s important to make sure that the carbs that are included are of super quality and will be good for your pooch. 

Things like sweet potatoes, squashes, and brown rice are great options that provide long-term, sustained energy and keep that blood sugar, allowing your pup to do his hunting thing for longer and feel better while doing it. 

Basically, we want to see no low-quality fillers here, because this is where most bad quality foods hide them. 

Criteria 3 – Protein Count & Quality

Hunting dogs’ muscles get a good workout on any given day, so the protein in your dog’s food should be of high enough quality and content to maintain muscle mass and keep them tough enough for the amount of exercise they get. 

Animal protein is essential. Meat meal is acceptable (as long as it’s been identified), but some pets may struggle to digest it. It is almost 4 times higher in protein than whole meat, though, so it depends on your pup’s needs! 

An active dog will need around 30% protein. You can go a little up or down depending on the activity level of your pooch, but 30% is a great level to aim for if your pup is active in a hunting sense. 

Criteria 4 – Extra Additions

These pups work hard and play hard, and it tends to take a toll on their bodies. The best dog food for hunting dogs should contain supplements that will help ease the strain on your pup’s body, including the immune system, muscles, and joints. 

Glucosamine and chondroitin are always wonderful to see on a dog food label. They provide a much-needed strength and stability boost to a dog’s joints, which is great for hunting dogs as many of them tend to suffer from joint dysplasia. 

Other things that are beneficial for just about all dogs include DHA (especially for puppies), EPA, vitamins A and  E, and L-carnitine (which assists with energy regulation and metabolism). 

Criteria 5 – Affordability

Although this is for the pet parents rather than the pups, it’s a factor that can make or break your pup’s health more than you might think. 

It’s true that some of the best dog food brands out there are not cheap. When you add that to having to provide medical care, bedding, training, and whatever else your pup needs, it can be super tempting to choose a lower quality food just for the price tag. 

Luckily for you, we’ve found some of the very best quality dog foods on the market that have a seriously decent price tag, and they’re of comparable quality to the foods at the top of the price range. 

Our Best Value For Money option is highly recommended if you are a little tight when it comes to budget. No matter which option on this list you choose, you can be sure it’s of premium quality and will improve your dog’s health.


Questions & Answers

What are the nutritional needs of hunting dogs?

Hunting dogs are the elite athletes of the canine world. They have specific nutritional needs, and in order to keep them in optimal health, you’ll need to make sure these needs are met. 

Your hunting dog will most likely need a high daily calorie intake to support their active lifestyle. This will vary from dog to dog, but you can get a good idea of how much your dog will need by using the guidelines on the back of the dog food packaging. If your pup starts to look chubby or scrawny, you can adjust up or down. 

As a rough idea, a 50-pound, active hunting dog will burn around 1400 calories a day when they’re NOT out and about hunting. This number can go up to 2200 on a hunting day. You’ll need to make sure you’re feeding enough cups of food per day to cover this number! 

The fat content of the food is going to be the first thing you need to check out. This is the most easily burned nutrient for rapid energy, so a diet high in fat is necessary for these pups. 20% should be the minimum number you see on a dog food label. 

Protein is also essential to keep those hard-working muscles maintained. It’s crucial that animal protein makes up the majority of the protein content in the food, and is from high-quality, identified sources. 30% and upwards is a good number for these active pooches. 

It’s a good idea to go for foods with carbohydrates that provide sustained energy, such as potato, sweet potato, squash, or other veggies. Be sure to avoid low-quality stuff like wheat, corn, and soy. 

Hunting dogs also need a joint supplement in their daily food. You can buy glucosamine supplements separately, but many foods come with it already added in, which is a bonus. 

How many calories should my hunting dog be eating? 

This will depend on the dog – a beagle is definitely not going to need the same amount of calories as an Irish wolfhound, no matter how active he is. It will also depend on the day – a hunting day’s calories will differ from a rest day. 

If you consider that a 50-pound pup would need 2200 calories on a hunting day, and 1400 on a rest day, you can get a pretty good estimate of your own dog’s needs by adjusting that number. 

Changes in weather conditions also affect caloric intake. If you’re hunting on a snowy, cold day, your pup is going to burn more energy than on a warmer day. For every 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) that the temperature drops, you should increase your fluff’s calories by about 7%. Remember, when it warms up again you should decrease accordingly.

How often should I be feeding my dog, and when?

Hunting dogs can differ somewhat when it comes to feeding schedules. Although you can feed your everyday pup a few cups of kibble a couple of times a day, when it’s hunting season, you will need to pay more attention to when you feed your pooch. 

It’s recommended to get your hunting dog into the habit of eating once a day. This may sound horrendous to us humans, but dogs’ metabolisms do well with this, as it can take up to 12 hours to digest their meal. 

If your pup is not hunting the following day, you can split this into two meals if you wish. The day before the hunt you’re going to want to feed them just once – in the evening so that by the time the hunt begins, their food will be digested and they’ll be burning those fats for energy.

Never feed your pup on the morning of the hunt. High activity levels on a full stomach can not only be uncomfortable for your pup and slow him down out in the field, but it can also actually be dangerous, increasing the risk of gastric torsion. It also won’t digest in time, so your pooch won’t even end up using those precious calories and nutrients for the hunt.

Wait an hour or so after your hunting day to feed your pup so their heart rate can normalize. 

What should I look for in the best dog food for hunting dogs? 

First and foremost, you want to find a food that contains around 20% fat, and gets it from great sources. Animal fats (as long as they are identified) are fantastic and should be on the list. 

30% or more protein is what you’ll be looking for next, and once again this should be made up of named animal sources. These should be specific, too – chicken, instead of poultry, for example. 

Carbohydrates are of less importance but should still be great quality and should also be slow-burning, such as starchy vegetables. Gluten-free grains are okay, too. 

Lastly, you should have a look for joint-supporting supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin. These are essential for hunting dogs, and although you can buy them separately to food, it’s really nice to have them in there from the start. 

Are there ingredients I should avoid? 

This will depend on your pup’s tummy. Some dogs are sensitive to poultry, some to grains, while others can chow through anything and suffer no side effects. 

Pay attention to how your pooch reacts to their food, and if they show any sort of discomfort, you may want to do some experimenting with different flavours. Bear in mind that “beef” flavoured foods might still contain chicken on their ingredient list, so if you’re going to be trying to avoid an ingredient, you will need to do some proper examination of dog food labels before you buy. 

It’s always a good idea to avoid foods containing wheat, soy, or corn products as these are often hard for dogs to digest. Other than that, anything artificial or synthetic has no place in a food and should be steered clear of. 

What are some common health problems seen in hunting dogs? 

The lifestyle of a hunting dog is hard on the body, so it makes sense that one of the most common problems in hunting dogs is joint issues. Arthritis and joint dysplasia are both painful and debilitating conditions, so extra care should be taken to support and maintain your pup’s joints. 

The deep-chested Irish Setters and others like them can be prone to gastric torsion, which is a potentially fatal condition. Although this is generally caused by your pup eating too fast or too much, it can be caused by feeding your pooch improperly or at the wrong time in relation to his activity, so you need to be extra careful here. 

Hunting dogs can also be susceptible to bacterial infections that they may pick up around the countryside as they’re out and about. You’ll need to make sure their immune system stays as strong as possible. Omega fatty acids and probiotics and prebiotics in their food are helpful to keep their immune system healthy. 

Should I change my hunting dog’s diet when it’s not hunting season? 

As mentioned above, you should change your pup’s calorie intake on days when they aren’t hunting. You can stick to the same food, though, as long as it’s high quality and nutritious!