The BARF diet for dogs and cats has been around for a long time however it has recently become more common worldwide as a feeding option. The word BARF is actually an acronym for bones and raw food or alternatively the biologically appropriate raw food diet, depending on where you are located. The BARF diet is an attempt to mimic, as much as possible, the diet that the dog would eat in a natural, wild state. Of course there are limitations on how exact this diet can be, especially on how much the owner is able to pay for the various ingredients in the diet and how accessible these products are. There are a great number of breeders that use the BARF diet exclusively and some sales contracts for puppies require the new owners to also feed the BARF diet to avoid voiding the sales agreement. New owners should understand the BARF diet and determine if they are comfortable with this feeding option before deciding if this is the right puppy or dog for their household.
The BARF diet was created by a veterinarian in Australia by the name of Dr. Ian Billinghurst. Dr. Billinghurst become interested in the variation in the health, aging and reaction to illness that he saw between dogs fed commercial foods and those fed natural foods. He began to carefully test and monitor various combinations of raw foods to see which foods provided health, fitness, shiny and healthy coats and good overall nutrition to various types and breeds of dogs. The resulting BARF diet was an immediate success in Australia and has quickly become popular and well supported throughout the world.
What Is In The Diet?
The BARF diet uses food it its natural and raw state, which is very healthy for pets. Typically the canine BARF diet will include:
Meaty bones for minerals and protein
Uncooked muscle and organ meat
Cooked cereals (limited amounts)
Most of the time the BARF diet will vary based on what is available in the way of meat, vegetables, fruits and extras to the diet. The premise is that dogs don't need all the other ingredients, chemicals and fillers in commercial dog foods. In addition since the food is in it raw natural state supporters of the BARF diet believe it is more effectively digested and that dogs will stay healthier, have better immunity, better dental health as well as avoid problems with obesity that many dogs fed commercial foods experience as they age.
BARF diets now come in pre-packaged, single serving frozen packages to take all the guesswork out of knowing how much to feed your dog. Frozen packages are simply thawed, opened and provided to the pets based on the weight and age of the dog as well as their activity level. This is typically 2% of the dogs total body weight per day of BARF food.
Prepackaged BARF patties, minces, offal and flash frozen "meals" typically average about $60.00 US for 25 pounds of product. In addition owners will have to provide meaty bones, often butchers or meat markets will provide these free or at a very low cost. There are also additional supplements that can be added to the meat and they typically range between about $15.00 to $25.00 per supplement container, which will vary in use depending on the size of the dog. Most owners will also add some form of Omega-3 and Omega -6 oils for skin and coat conditioning and this supplement is approximately $20.00 per bottle.
If owners are willing to make their own patties and food, the cost can be significantly less, however it is also more of a risk as to the actual nutritional benefit that your dog is receiving from the food if it is not balanced. It is important when buying food for a BARF diet that only inspected meat is used. Most people that feed the BARF diet use the pre-packaged system simply because it is simple and convenient as well as pre-measured and balanced. The pre-packaged food still allows for the owners to add additional vegetables, fruits or supplements to the food as well as the bones.
As with most diets or feeding programs there are some vets, animal nutritionalists and breeders that consider the BARF diet potentially dangerous. Some of the ingredients such as raw eggs can be fatal to dogs if fed in to great a quantity. Raw salmon and other fish can also cause dietary deficiencies that can lead to death if not corrected. Raw meats of any type can contain salmonella and other potentially hazardous and even life-threatening diseases and bacteria.
One of the biggest concerns that non-supporters of the BARF diet have is that owners simply don't have the understanding about how and what to provide their dog's to ensure a healthy diet. In addition care must be taken to remove bones from the dogs before they splinter, possible lodging in the throat or teeth or even passing into the digestive tract and causing a potentially deadly perforation.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the BARF diet over the commercially available foods that are more common really is a personal decision. There are some dogs that will do much better on the BARF diet, especially those with food allergies and some skin conditions, while other dogs do very well on commercial diets.
Feeding the BARF diet does have some short term issues in that dogs switching from kibble to a BARF diet will often have diarrhea, excessive gas and may have very bad breath during the switch. After they have adjusted to the new food these issues should fade within a couple of weeks. In addition owners will have to provide a space and place for dogs to enjoy their meaty bones, something that may be difficult for those that keep their dogs inside most of the time or don't have access to a place for the dog to eat outside. In addition in houses with more than one dog it will be very critical for owners to ensure that a dominant dog is not hoarding all the bones and preventing the other dogs from accessing this important part of the diet.