What is a BARF diet for Dogs?
In an effort to provide their dogs with quality food, many owners have made the switch to a BARF diet. The acronym sounds less than appealing, but it stands for bones and raw food or biologically appropriate raw food. The philosophy behind a BARF diet is that dogs should be offered a nutritional plan that resembles the diet that their ancestors ate in the wild: uncooked meat, edible bones, organs, and plants. The practice remains a bit controversial, but modern sled dogs typically eat a BARF diet because raw meat is readily available in the wilderness, and supporters use this evidence as reason to pursue a raw feeding plan.
Are There Benefits to a BARF Diet?
Supporters of the BARF movement report positive changes in their pets’ overall health. Most BARF diet literature says that raw foods can provide:
- A shiny coat
- ealthy skin
- Clean teeth
- High energy levels
- Smaller stools
While there is little scientific evidence to support these claims made by BARF proponents, the number of advocates of raw feeding are growing rapidly. Owners take comfort in knowing precisely what their dogs are consuming and knowing that the food they offer their pet is not processed or full of additives and preservatives. There are entire online communities dedicated to raw feeding, and owners typically stand by their claims that raw diet improves canine health.
Are There Risks to a BARF Diet?
Any time an animal consumes raw meat, there is a risk of bacterial contamination. Additionally, a BARF diet does not ensure balanced nutrition. Owners must work with a dog nutrition expert or veterinarian to develop a supplement plan that will ensure the dog is getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, bones are always a choking hazard, and some can splinter, leaving the dog at risk for a torn GI tract.
To get around some of these risks, many owners adopt a partially-raw diet, providing their dogs with cooked meat instead of raw meat, and leaving fruits and vegetables as the only raw ingredients. Other owners include some kibble in the dog’s raw diet to help include some of the essential vitamins and minerals that aren’t provided in the BARF plan.
How to Switch to a BARF Diet
Owners interested in adopting a BARF diet for their dogs should conduct as much research as possible before selecting a plan. There are hundreds of variations of the BARF diet, so it will be important to choose a plan that meets a family’s budget, comfort level, and provides the maximum amount of nutrition. It can be useful to work with a dog nutritionist that specializes in raw feeding plans.
As with any dog food switch, the change will have to happen gradually to help the dog adapt. Raw foods will be introduced slowly into the dog’s regular kibble meals. Over time, more raw food will be added as kibble is subtracted.
A raw feeding plan is a personal choice. As long as the owner is watchful and safe, and consults with a vet or nutritional expert on how to provide nutritional balance, owners can feel comfortable making the switch to a BARF diet.