Dog food contains meat protein and is not ideal for a herbivore like deer. They may consume a few pellets out of curiosity, but they will not indulge in it too much.
Also, it is not suitable for their digestion, and dog food containing animal proteins will be difficult for deer to digest so please do not put some out for them.
Deer have different diets depending on the season and their metabolic needs. They will feed on a variety of digestible foods that contain the nutrients their body requires. When the deer cannot digest what’s in their stomach, this can lead to bloating, and even chronic wasting.
What do they eat?
Deer have high nutritional requirements to aid in their survival. They need foods that contain high minerals such as calcium and phosphate, and deer cannot feed on the same diet and must have food variety.
They will often locate foods high in carbohydrates, particularly during winter and fall. That is how they build their fat reserves. Protein is also crucial to their diet, but they source it from plants around them.
Deer will feed on
- Plant shoots
- Fallen leaves
- Flowering plants
Their diet will depend on the season that when winter months arrive, they prefer to eat acorns, lichens, brassicas, and sugar beets.
The problem with the changing season for deer is the difficulty in searching for food. When the weather gets too cold, the crops are also limited, and the deer’s diet will be affected.
They need a food source to survive, especially during the winter. There are supplemental plants that can survive during the winter in some areas. Corn and brassicas are often the hardy plants during the winter, and deer can access such food sources.
Do they eat meat?
Although they are known as herbivores, when given the chance, deer will eat meat.
They are not animals who target or prey on other creatures, though, and their penchant for eating meat happens when they stumble upon them. It can be hatchlings, or sometimes small animals they can chew on. Their teeth cannot bite through animal’s thick skin since they are often used to eating plants and shrubberies, but they can eat some weird food if it’s available.
Deer will often choose plant material for their meal, but in some circumstances, when there is no plant available, and food is scarce, deer will consume meat to survive. It can be fish, dead rabbits, and, sometimes, live birds.
Deer will consume this food when they need to fill their requirement for sodium, calcium, and phosphorous. Meat, however, should not be part of their regular diet cause deer are not equipped to digest meat.
What to feed them?
Other seasons are alright with deer, but winter is usually a problem. They can adapt to the season and will slow down their metabolism to require less food, but it is still a reality that most adult deer will not survive the winter as the food source gets covered in snow, making the competition for food in any area intense.
A portion of deers die because of starvation during winter, and if they cannot forage for food in the area, most of them will not survive.
The availability of food is essential to help deer get through winter, and some people know how difficult it is for them to be in such weather, so they provide food for the animal.
If one is to feed deers, it should be foods that are easily digestible and will not cause problems, eventually.
It is easily digestible and safe with its metabolism. Although it is not a well-balanced diet, it will do, especially if mixed with oats.
You can find deer pellets sold in farm feed outlets. It is specially formulated for them and will provide them with the protein, fiber, and energy they need. Deer pellets are also easy to digest and ideal for their metabolism.
You must introduce this food to deer gradually and with caution. If deer devour this food because of extreme hunger, it can cause problems with their digestion. You can combine it with alfalfa if available.
Although deer consume fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, tomatoes, apples, carrots, pumpkin, squash, watermelon, pears, and grapes, it is not the ideal food for them. This food is tasty but provides little value.
They will also not benefit from bread or other crumbs you will feed them that may cause them harm than good in the long run.
Should you feed wildlife?
The wrong method and incorrect food can harm or even kill a deer, so feeding must be done properly, or not at all. You should not feed them or any wildlife.
In some locations, feeding deer is discouraged because of the following reasons.
Deer can cause property damage
If you are feeding deer in your backyard, they will come in pairs at first, and then there will be more that will depend on your handouts. If you have no more to feed them and still keep on browsing and foraging in your backyard, this may cause a problem for you.
They can be vulnerable to attacks
Coyotes prey on deer, and if they are exposed going to and from your backyard, coyotes can take them.
Aggression and fighting between deers
If there is not enough food on the feeding site, fighting and aggression may arise between these animals. If other animals will look for food in the area, fighting will surely ensue if there is not enough food to feed them all.
Transmission of disease
The chronic wasting disease is transmissible among deer as well as other diseases. When they are in confined spaces, transmission is more probable. Poop in the area can also contribute to cause illness.
Bloating, Enterotoxemia and Corn Dangers
Improper feeding is the culprit for the above health problems in deer. When they are fed foods they are not used to, it can change their gastrointestinal pH.
Massive consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates such as grains can cause enterotoxemia. Corn dangers are caused by consuming corn in high quantity that results in acidosis that can eventually lead to death.