The Raw Pet Food Diet (BARF)
BARF is an acronym that stands for ‘Bones and Raw Food,’ although it is also sometimes used to refer to the term, ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’. Since its development by Australian veterinarian, Ian Billinghurst, the diet has also come to be known as the ‘Billinghurst Australian Real Food’ and the ‘Born Again Raw Feeders’ diet. Whatever moniker you prefer, the goal of the diet remains the same: to feed your pets a diet appropriate to their evolutionary development by providing the raw foods they would naturally seek out in the wild.
What Does the BARF Diet Contain?
The BARF diet for dogs consists of raw meat and meaty bones as a primary food source, with the addition of small amounts of vegetables, seeds and cultured dairy.
There seems to be more than one school of thought on the topic of feeding grains and vegetables to cats. While cats may occasionally consume grasses, they are basically obligate carnivores and not omnivores. Therefore, many staunch advocates of the BARF diet insist on sticking to feeding raw meat on the bone, presented in parts or as an entire carcass (i.e., a whole fish) and less starches and grains. Others, who are no less dedicated to providing optimum nutrition, prefer to offer a variety of foods in reasonable proportions, generally 70% RMBs (raw meaty bones) and 30% from the ‘other’ categories. Which way you lean really depends on your pet and the food sources readily available to you.
The Benefits of the BARF Diet Over Commercial Pet Food
One of the most significant benefits of feeding a BARF diet is that the animal must take the time to actually chew the food rather than gulping it down too quickly, which can lead to indigestion and overeating. For dogs, in particular, this ‘inhaling’ of food can lead to intestinal bloating, a common problem with sometimes fatal results.
Other benefits of the BARF diet are reputed to be:
- Less gas and bloating
- Cleaner teeth and fresher breath
- Weight control
- Increased stamina
- Elimination of allergies
- No risk of toxicity from preservatives and additives
Where Can I Obtain Raw Foods?
One of the best sources of RMBs is your local butcher. Materials that are considered inedible for human consumption such as chicken necks, beef intestines, kidneys, heart, tongue and liver are acceptable sources of protein for your cat or dog. Of course, if some items on this menu make you feel a bit squeamish, a selection of chicken necks, backs and thighs will suffice. A whole fish is also desirable, to most dogs as well as cats.
However, it should be noted that your local butcher might be handling livestock and poultry that has been fed preservatives and hormones. If this is the case, there are several brands of certified organic, grain-fed meats available at most supermarkets today.
Other Things to Consider When Using the BARF Diet Method
Should I Worry About Bones?
With the exception of rare cases, it is not necessary to grind or break apart bones before feeding RMBs to your cat or dog. On the contrary, it is cooked bones that tend to splinter and pose a potential choking hazard or injury.
What about vitamins?
Whether or not it’s really necessary to give vitamin supplements while feeding a BARF diet is another subject of debate. Some advocates say it’s not, while others believe that the addition of certain enzymes (i.e., amylase), taurine and other nutrients is necessary. Discuss this option with your veterinarian, particularly if your pet is pregnant or nursing, recovering from illness, or if another condition is present.