What is BARF diet? Risks and benefitsOn November 10, 2018 by Vlad9 min read
A few months back we set out to find out what’s the best food for Ragnar, our dog. We did a lot of research and after outweighing the risks and benefits of the BARF (or raw-feed) diet, we never looked back. Like us, you probably only want the very best for your furry best friend. If that is so, you might want to consider feeding him or her better food.
Most pet owners feed their pets kibble. It’s easy, convenient and we’re constantly reassured by pet food brands that this is the best and only choice for your pet. But is it?
What is the BARF diet?
BARF diet stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods. Simply put this diet consists of raw foods that provide your pet with all the nutrients he or she needs to live a healthy life. This is, more or less, what dogs have been eating for thousands of years. After all, dog kibble was only invented in the 1800s.
BARF diet or raw-feed diet is said to be the best choice for a biological point of view. However, there are a few hard rules to keep in mind if you do decide to switch your dog on a raw feed. When raw feeding you should aim for a ratio of roughly 70% raw muscle meat, 10% raw edible bone, 5% raw liver, 5% other secreting organs, and 10% vegetables and fruits.
It is not difficult at all to switch to raw foods, but it will be a bit more time consuming than just pouring a bowl of kibble. Depending on where you get your meats from, it could also be a bit more expensive, so take that into account.
Raw food for dogs – How much to feed and what?
If you do decide to start feeding your pet a raw diet please do more research beforehand. While I am trying to share as much as I can with you, I am not a veterinarian nor a nutrition specialist. Each dog breed is different, so be sure you know as much as possible about how the raw food diet applies to your dog.
As I mentioned previously your dog’s diet must contain meat, raw bones, organs and vegetables and fruits. Every meal should be balanced and give your best friend all the nutrients it needs.
When calculating the amount of food your dog needs every day you need to consider their weight and divide it by a percentage depending on their age. To make this a bit easier you can use this simple raw food diet calculator.
It is ok to have more bone in one meal and more muscle meat in another. The point is to have a balanced diet throughout the day/week. Respect the 70:10:5:5 ratio for meat, bones, internal organs and vegetables.
One thing to keep in mind is that dog’s do not have the teeth, the jaw structure, or the salivary enzymes needed to begin the digestion process in the mouth. So, if you choose to add veggies and fruit into the diet be sure to provide them pureed, steamed, or fermented to ensure nutrient absorption.
Switching from kibble to raw food
If your pet is already on a kibble diet you need to start the transition easy. Your dog is used to digesting the dry foods and will need a bit of time to adjust to the new diet. Meat protein is digested differently and his or her body will need time to adjust.
When we started giving our dog raw food, he was already used to eating cooked meats like chicken and pork. Some owners recommend giving your pet cooked chicken to help them adjust digesting the protein and slowly adding in small portions of raw meat.
Don’t feed your dog cooked bones!
In the 1st week of raw feeding your dog, only add white meats and bones to his plate. You can use chicken tights, necks, feet, breast, etc. Monitor and see how your dog reacts to it.
Don’t freak out, loose stool if one of the effects of switching to a different diet your dog will have. It is normal and it shouldn’t keep on for more than 2 or 3 days until your puppy adjusts. If your pooch is experiencing diarrhea for more than 2, 3 days in a row, remove any fat contents and skin from the chicken and increase the bone amount.
Really getting into the raw fed diet
In the 2nd and 3rd week you can start introducing red meats to their diet. Pork, beef, lamb, and goat are good examples of red meat options to introduce at this step. Add small amounts and gradually increase over a few days. If the stool remains firm you can move on to introduce more varieties in the week that follows.
In the 3rd and 4th week you can start adding organs to the diet. Liver and other secreting organs will need to be introduced at this step. Organs are very nutrient rich. Therefore, start small and gradually increase to requirements.
Your dog might not be interested in eating liver or other organs like ours did, so make sure you give your dog something that he enjoys at first and he will get used to eating other organs.
I know meat can be expensive in some parts of the world. Keep in mind that internal organs like the liver and kidneys filter out the bad stuff from the animal’s blood. So, avoid really cheap brands that are not naturally fed. After all the BARF diet is all about healthy food.
Detox and benefits of the BARF diet
Your dog will start to detox as soon as you start feeding him raw meat. Do not be alarmed. This is his body’s way of getting adjusted. If you had started with raw food from a puppy age, this wouldn’t be a thing.
Some of the most common detoxing effects are loose stool, shedding fur, eye discharge and itchiness. These are all signs that the body is cleaning itself naturally so let it do its thing.
Your dog will soon start to feel amazing and you will be able to see it. The fur will we much softer and shinier, the stool will be a very small amount and usually very hard. I promise once you switch to the raw diet you’ll never want to go back to kibble.
Worth mentioning that some dogs can be allergic to some meats and others will never tolerate meat protein. If your dog continues to have itches or any of the other symptoms for more than 2 or 3 days, take him or her to the vet.
How we switched our dog to BARF diet
We started switching Ragnar to a raw diet when he was about 6 months old. I was very concerned because he would never finish eating his kibble and was more excited about eating grass than high-end, expensive kibble.
One day, I stumbled upon a video of a husky who was being fed a raw diet and I that got me intrigued. The more I looked into it the more sense it made. Dogs and cat are biologically built for a raw diet.
I will put the link of a video from Dr Becker who helped me understand more about the needs of my dog.
Downsides of the BARF diet
As much as a raw diet is the best diet for a healthy dog, it is at the same time a bit more expensive and time-consuming.
I usually go shopping for food once a week or every 10 days or so. I did some math and the food I buy for Ragnar is about twice as much as I used to spend on kibble. To be fair I also indulge in buying him all sort of meats that aren’t always cheap.
My shopping list will always have some sort of chicken meat and bones in it, chicken hearts (Ragnar’s favourites), minced meat and whatever I find on sale or that I would like to try. Some weeks I buy him duck or beef or rabbit. He also loves lamb and beef heart.
I always mix fruits and vegetables with the minced meat to make it easier for him to eat them. Lately, I’ve been adding fish oil and spirulina to his diet. I also try to add seeds whenever I remember to put them in there and surprisingly he loves them. One other thing that I try to feed him regularly are eggs, raw or boiled and with the shell added as well.
I feed Ragnar twice a day about 200g for every meal. Now he is always excited about his food and he always finishes his meal. Every time.
Before you do decide to switch to raw feed diet, please do your research. This is what I currently know and what I do for my dog, but I am not a doctor so do not take my word for it.
2 Myths about the raw diet for dogs
Raw meat makes your dog “bloodthirsty”
That must be the first thing I hear when people hear Ragnar is on a raw diet. And it couldn’t be more away from the truth.
Dogs are natural hunters. Hunting is what they are designed to do. There are breeds with a higher drive to hunt and kill prey – so some pets will naturally hunt a lot while others may never hunt. The food you feed your pet will never be a determining factor if they will or will not hunt prey. Prey drive is determined by a combination of the breed and obedience training.
Raw bones are dangerous because they splinter
This is a very common misconception about feeding raw bones to your pet. In fact, raw bones are great for your pet and are totally safe!
Raw bones are soft and are easy to digest in comparison to cooked bones. Cooking the bones removes moisture from them which makes them hard, splinter when eaten, and difficult to digest. When you cook bones you change the chemical structure of them and that is what you should keep your pet away from.
But raw bones are totally safe for your dog. If they’re small enough to chew them they’re safe.
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Hello and welcome!
We (Vlad & Greti) are building a home on a homestead in a rural area of Romania in Western Europe and sharing our story as two passionate gardeners who ditched the city for a simpler, better life.