BARF Diet

Reprinted with permission from Trojan Rottweilers

The following article has been reproduced with permission from Trojan Rottweilers who have been feeding BARF or a BARF type diet (all natural) for almost 20 years.

The benefits of BARF are incredible. Some of these include:

  • cleaner teeth
  • shinier coats and healthier skin
  • no bad breath
  • lots of energy
  • less fat, and more muscle
  • bright eyes
  • smaller, firmer, less smelly stools
  • less health problems and less vet bills

An Overview Of BARF

Welcome! If you are just starting your research on the BARF diet you may want to take a moment to review this information. It will give you the basics for the feeding programme. I also encourage new members to read and learn all they can before beginning to feed their dogs this way, but be sure that what you learn comes from a reliable source that understands the concept of evolutionary nutrition!

WHAT YOU FEED IN THE BARF DIET... Raw Meaty Bones (RMB)

The most important thing you need is a supply of raw meaty bones for chewing but more importantly for eating. These form the basis of the diet. Most people feed chicken or turkey wings, necks, backs or carcasses. These pieces consist of bone, cartilage, fat and a little bit of flesh. The optimal RMB is 50% meat to 50% bone. Other meaty bone sources should be evaluated for the required balance of these components according to the needs of the dog being fed. White meats seem to be healthier for dogs than red meats. This may be because they are higher in essential fatty acids unlike red meats which are higher in saturated fats and associated with degenerative conditions such as arthritis. However, it is important to try and feed variety, so try to incorporate other meat (beef, lamb, pork...ostrich) several times a week. Raw meaty chicken bones can be fed to all sizes, shapes and ages of dogs. For example, raw chicken wings can form the basis of a small dog's diet whereas large dogs might be fed turkey necks, wings, chicken backs or even an entire chicken on occasion! Lamb shanks, including breasts, chops, legs and ribs are also valuable and should be fed on the bone. Not a lot of people feed pork or rabbit, but it can be used to provide variety in the diet. Beef is very popular as dog meat, however as the bones are very hard they are usually not as easily consumed by smaller dogs as is poultry. Most beef bone cuts are better utilized for eating exercise and teeth cleaning. Besides these smaller eating bones, your dog will need larger, less meaty bones. These bones provide eating exercise, they clean the teeth, massage the gums and satisfy a psychological need that dogs have. Bones are your dog's most important source for minerals, especially calcium. They provide quality protein, fats, fat soluable vitamins and cartilage. Are bones dangerous? Perhaps. However, dogs have evolved to eat bones and it would be rare that a problem might arise. If fed raw, they are soft and chewable. It is NOT recommended that cooked bones be fed as they become brittle and have the potential to splinter. If you prefer to NOT feed whole RMB, have a dog that is missing teeth, who does not eat carefully, or has difficulty digesting whole bones, then it is recommended that the RMB be ground. The same benefits will be obtained.

Meat & Fish

Any ground muscle meat is acceptable such as beef, lamb, rabbit, deer...An all meat diet has the potential for disaster, however a meal of pure meat is fine now and again. Fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel) can also form a part of the weekly balanced diet. If a lot of fish is to be fed, then the whole fish should be used and vitamin E should be supplemented.

Offal

Organ meats are a small part of the BARF diet, about 10 - 15%. They should be fresh, raw and include liver, kidney, heart, brain, tripe... In its raw state it is nutritionally valuable food with first class protein, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins.

Vegetables

The use of vegetables must be stressed as their omission in the diet may contribute to ill health. Vegetables should form 15 - 25% of the overall diet. Use any vegetable (with the exception of onions) such as green leafy, beet, spinach, celery, cabbage family, capsicum, root and/or fruits such as tomato, apple, oranges, pears, mangoes and banana. The wider the variety the better, as each contributes to a full spectrum of nutrients. Fruits should be fed when over-ripened where they provide the non-complex carbohydrates or simple sugars as opposed to the slow releasing energy from the complex carbohydrates. The bulk of the vegies used should consist of 'low glycemic,' green leafy vegetables and ripe fruit. 'Low glycemics' are foods, which do not cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels. Homes with one or two dogs can utilize scraps and peelings along with other vegetables and fruits. Vegetables must be processed before they become nutritionally beneficial to your dog. This does not involve cooking, but does require a food processor or grinder that will be able to totally crush the vegetable and fruit matter. Once prepared it can be fed as a 'soup', 'patty' or 'cake', depending on the amount of juice and pulp content of the mix.

Healthy Oils

The BARF diet requires that a health promoting oil be included as a source of omega3 and omega6 essential fatty acids. These oils are vital for your dog's health. What you will be looking for is flax oil or salmon oil. You will also need cod liver oil. When feeding these oils, appropriate antioxidants must also be used — such as vitamin E. These healthy oils must be kept refrigerated or frozen in order to maintain their integrity. Ordinary vegetable oils from the supermarket are not recommended.

Yogurt - Eggs

Dairy foods are not required by the dog, in an evolutionay sense, however, high quality yogurt or kefir contains essential bacteria for bowel health and for general health. You will need to find a sugarless brand from the health store or make your own. Eggs are a cheap source of top quality protein, vitamin A, minerals — and if free range they also contain good amounts of fatty acids. The entire egg — shell and all is fed. Egg yolks are excellent 'skin food'.

An optional requirement - Grain?

The short and simple answer is that grains did NOT figure as part of our dogs [or cats] evolutionary diet. On that basis, grain is not biologically appropriate for our pets. The only way grains may be used in the diet is when they are freshly sprouted and then processed along with the other vegetable matter.

Vitamins...

For optimal health your dog will definitely need extra vitamins. These may include the B complex, vitamin E and C along with some kelp and/or alfalfa. With the exception of vitamin E, these vitamins can be frozen.

How Much To Feed?

The amounts required will depend on the age, activity level and metabolism of your dog. The adult dog that has reached maturity may be fed approximately 60% raw meaty bones. The other 40% of the diet would consist of meat, fish, fruit or vegetables, organ meats, an occasional porridge meal plus supplements and a very small percentage of left-overs.

Approximate Guidelines for Average Dog @ 1/2 lb per 25 lbs

Weight of dog 60% RMB — whole or ground 40% Vegetable Mixture

10 lbs 2.5 oz 1.5 oz
25 lbs 5 oz 3.5 oz
50 lbs 10 oz 6 oz
75 lbs 15 oz 10 oz
100 lbs 24 oz 16 oz

About Bacteria...

A dog's immune system is designed to handle bacteria such as Samolella, E.Coli and Campylobacter jejuni. It is much more adept at this than the human body. If dogs are fed nothing but heat sterilized food, you are depriving them of the opportunity to develop an immune response to these and many other organisms. Handling raw foods for your dog requires the same care as your 'human' food does. Raw food will spoil if left unrefrigerated for an extended period of time. Excess food not eaten, should be refigerated for the next feeding or discarded. Keep raw meat separate from other foods; wash working surfaces, utensils and hands with hot soapy water after each feeding. Simple!

How to make the switch?

Some owners just go 'cold turkey' and never look back. Some dog's may have a looser stool for a day or so...some just blend into the change like they have always eaten this way... others are so excited about eating now they will follow you around begging for more. Depending on the history of your dog, you may have to make a more gradual change or simply make the switch and go with what ever comes from it — literally! When you are ready to begin take it slowly. Try to keep the diet simple at first. This is particularly important for older/middle aged dogs that have been eating a cooked diet for most of their life. Start with chicken or turkey necks or backs only for the first couple of days and remove any excess fat. The only other thing you might add at this point would be some yogurt or a probiotic supplement. Keep meals small to begin with and don't overfeed. Once the dog is digesting the raw meaty bones, add some veggies with a bit of lean ground meat. After a week or two, you can start adding the other foods like eggs and offal (leaving a little bit more fat on the chicken if necessary) and then start adding supplements if you want to. Don't do it all at once. I would also suggest that with dogs new to the BARF diet that you stay away from the harder or fattier bones for awhile. Give them time to re-develop their digestive system first.

You can do it!

Lots of people watch their dog deteriorate on commercial foods simply because they either don't know what else to feed, how to feed it or that they do need to feed something better in order to obtain or maintain optimal health. When dogs are switched to bones and raw food, health problems either improve or disappear. By making such a remarkably simple but profound change in your dog's diet you will quickly discover what so many other dog owners around the world already know.

Here are some interesting links on BARF and nutrition, if you are interested in finding out more information on it.

And here is some recommended reading.

Here is a list of excellent reading, which can be bought at Dogwise.com

  • "Give Your Dog A Bone" and "Grow Your Pup with Bones", by Ian Billinghurst
  • "The Ultimate Diet", by Kymythy Schultze
  • "The Nature of Animal Healing", by Martin Goldstein, DVM
  • "The Holistic Guide for Healthy Dogs", by Wendy Volhard & Kerry Brown, DVM
  • "Food Pets Die For", by Ann Martin
  • "The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat", by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
  • "Reigning Cats and Dogs", by Pat McKay
  • "The Natural Remedy Book for Dogs and Cats", by Dine Stein
  • "The Complete Encyclopedia for Natural Pet Care", by C.J. Puotinen

Note: This section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.