What is the BARF diet for dogs?
Well to some it stands for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” diet, while others say it means “Bones and Raw Food” diet.
Whatever you want to call it, BARF dog food emulates the natural dog diet that has been around as long as dogs have walked the planet!
The BARF Diet in a Nutshell
To prevent food allergies it’s best not to rely on one kind of meat.
How to follow the BARF diet for your dog
BASE THE DIET AROUND RAW MEATY BONES
To support proper growth food must contain adequate protein, fat, energy, vitamins and minerals. Most of these come conveniently packaged in the form of raw meaty bones.
As a simple rule of thumb your dog’s diet should be made up of around 60% raw meaty bones.
Never feed cooked bones to your dog.
They splinter and can cause fatal injury to the intestines. Similarly avoid chop bones – they have sharp angles that can perforate the gut.
What sort of raw meaty bones?
The best of these are chicken drumsticks which provide high quality protein, with a good balance of meat, essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins, some B vitamins, and ample energy and all essential minerals.
Other parts of the chicken such as the back, thigh and rib cage can also occasionally be used.
Because they are derived from very young animals, chicken bones are lower in toxins than meat from other species which are generally much older at slaughter.
They are also soft enough for puppies to tackle (I beat them up with a mallet to make it even easier for very young pups).
Other useful meaty bones, especially for older dogs, include pigs’ feet, ox tail, meaty ribs, kangaroo tail, and lamb shanks. Avoid very fatty meats such as lamb off-cuts, flaps and pig belly. Trim excessive fats from other meats.
What raw meaty bones provide
The bone marrow is a particularly good source of iron to build up the blood and immune system.
The bone itself is a great, perfectly balanced source of other minerals, especially calcium and phosphorous. On a proper BARF diet there is no need for artificial calcium supplementation, even in larger breeds of dogs.
Despite some of the B vitamins being in short supply in raw meaty bones, dogs raised on them and little else still do better than those fed on the best of the supposedly complete and balanced commercial dog foods.
I find it very useful to provide the meaty bone part of the diet to my dogs whenever I need to leave them for a period of time. Gnawing at a bone provides useful and rewarding entertainment and can alleviate loneliness and boredom, thus circumventing possible destructive behavior.
Clean the teeth and gums
Gnawing on a bone is the doggy equivalent of brushing your teeth! Dogs that get raw meaty bones regularly have beautiful healthy teeth and gums and sweet smelling breath. They also enjoy better health.
Won’t they give my dog parasites?
While some parasites (especially tapeworms) can infect dogs through larval stages present in uncooked meat, veterinarians who have trialed the BARF diet for dogs report negligible associated parasite problems.
Most parasites passed on this way are detected at the abattoir when the carcass is inspected. Further, responsible dog owners routinely worm their pets every 3 months using a “complete” wormer anyway, which would prevent such parasites becoming established.
The Other Part of the Diet
The other 40% of the diet should be drawn from as wide a variety of foods as possible. Remember, dogs are basically omnivorous so need vegetable as well as meat in their diet.
Offal once or twice a week
For the offal component of the diet, give raw liver, heart, kidney or brains once or twice a week.
Leftovers three to four times a week
The more different foods you feed your dog, the healthier he will be, including some dairy products and plenty of vegetables.
I’ve heard a lot of nonsense about the dangers of feeding leftovers to dogs, like don’t let your dog eat onions, and adult dogs shouldn’t have dairy products!
Nevertheless, normal leftovers (minus any cooked bones) containing these and other ingredients are a great supplement to the meaty bone diet, and very practical.
Soup, pasta, cooked vegetables, raw vegetables (grated), cheese, yoghurt, rice, in fact any remains of wholesome home-cooked meals add to the variety of your dog’s diet (remember though – NO COOKED BONES!).
I always cook a bit extra so there will be enough leftovers available.
You notice the emphasis on home cooked. The object is to avoid all processed foods and those containing any preservatives or artificial colors or flavors.
Also, don’t feed your dog too much fat!!!
BARF diet for dogs recipe
You can, of course, make up food especially for your dog.
This recipe provides a high fiber, high energy meal to supplement the raw meaty bone component of the BARF diet for dogs.
Though low in essential minerals and protein, that doesn’t matter because the raw meaty bones, given at other times of the week to complete the BARF diet, more than make up for that.
The following diet is based on Dr Ian Billinghurst’s recommendations in the book “Give Your Dog a Bone”.
In place of leftovers, up to 3 or 4 times a week, feed a mixture of:
• 1 cup of soaked quick oats or cooked brown rice
• 1 teaspoon “extra virgin” olive oil, or animal fat from the frying pan (in winter substitute cod liver oil once a week)
• 2 desert spoons of grated fresh vegetables
• 3 desert spoons of cooked, mashed vegetables
• 1 egg or egg yolk
• 2 teaspoon of
Dr Meg’s “Easy” BARF Recipe
I raise my dogs mostly on home cooked food alternating with crushed raw chicken pieces (I smash them with the back of a small axe – you could also use a meat tenderiser). They also get a meal of raw offal (liver, kidneys) once a week.
The cooked food is just pet mince simmered with veges:
1 kg pet mince browned in a little oil in a big pot.
Add 1 kg mixed veges (I like to get frozen mixed veges. The cheapest ones are from Coles and are great as they have no potato, just broccoli and cauliflower, carrots and peas). Let them thaw then whizz in the blender.
Season with a little sea salt and sprinkle of garlic powder (unless your dog is allergic of course).
2 tspn dried and blended eggshells can be added for growing puppies and lactating bitches to supply extra calcium.
2 tspn gelatine powder (optional) if a bit wet, to set it to a jelly.
Allow to cool, then pull out the bones and add:
1 tablespoon of fish, coconut or hemp seed oil
1 heaped tspn of superfood mix (Kelp powder, spirulina, brewers yeast, lecithin in equal quantities).
Optional extras once cool:
An egg yolk or
A large spoon of natural yoghurt or probiotics (or give separately another time)
How much to feed the BARF diet for dogs
A normal active dog needs from 2% to 3% of its body weight (BW) per day in food. So a 20 1b dog taken for a walk every day would need to eat 0.4 lb a day (2% BW). A 10 kg dog that was very active may need 300 gram (3% BW).
The daily food requirement of growing puppies is closer to 10% of their body weight. For pups under 3 months it is best to feed a low lactose milk though, to avoid the risk of cataracts developing.
For lactating bitches, it is 6% to 10% of body weight, depending on litter size and puppy age.
Obviously, the more puppies in the litter, and the older they are, the more they will draw from the bitch and the more she will need to be fed to keep up!
How often to feed the BARF diet for dogs
Growing puppies and lactating bitches should be fed the BARF diet for dogs two to three times a day. Adult dogs can easily get by on one to two feeds a day.
To simulate a BARF diet for dogs, it is also wise to let your adult dog (as long as it is not growing, ill, pregnant or lactating) go without food for 24 hours every week or so.
This small fast simulates conditions natural to your dogs’ ancestors, and is good for health as it rests the gut.