BARF Diet For Dogs (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) - What You Need To Know?

If there is one thing you want to get right with your furry friend is their diet. Without adequate nutrients, your dog won't be able to build and repair muscles, maintain muscle tone, maintain good dental health, or play normally. So does the BARF diet qualify on the list of the reliable foods you can feed your dog? 

Let's find out.

What is the Barf diet?

BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. It is a popular dog food that contains a mixture of fruits, vegetables, bones, uncooked meat, herbs, whole grains, and supplements.

The raw diet has a higher protein percentage as compared to commercial foods. They help avoid all the processed grains, food, and meat that's in many commercial foods. The diet can, therefore, significantly improve your dog's health by reducing allergies, digestive issues as well as maintaining a stable weight.

The biologically appropriate raw food diet, therefore, mimics the raw food dogs eat before they're domesticated.

What's in the Barf diet for dogs & what are their ratios?

The recommended BARF diet ratios are as follows: 1% fruit, 2% nuts or seeds, 5% secreting organs, 7% vegetables, 10% raw edible diet, and 70% muscle meat. 

Muscle meat 

The BARF diet requires 70% muscle meat to provide amino acids, proteins, and water-soluble vitamins.

It's worthwhile to note that this doesn't mean you should feed your dog with muscle meat exclusively. The raw meat ratio for dogs includes other ingredients such as heart muscle meat or saturated fat for energy.

Raw edible bone

This is the source of phosphorus, calcium, and other vital nutrients.

The ratio that a dog needs to maintain consistent and firm stools may vary. 10% is just a starting guideline. Many dogs need up to 12% to 15% raw edible content. Adjust based on the needs of your dog.

Vegetables

The vegetables ensure the diet has phytochemicals essential nutrients.

Liver

This is a crucial ingredient as it provides the dog with water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamin A. The starting guideline is 5%, but if your dog is sensitive, feeding them 2% liver is still enough.

Other secreting organs

Kidney and other secreting organ meats such as heart, kidneys, brains, lung, pancreas, spleen are important Barf ingredients as they give your dogs nutrients such as water-soluble vitamins and minerals.

Seeds and Nuts

They act as a source of fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids. Adding seeds and nuts will formulate a complete and balanced raw dog diet. It's advisable to soak and ground the grains before cooking. Soaking seeds and nuts reduce the level of phytates that can affect the nutritional balance of your dog, promoting optimal digestion.

Fruits

Fruits have beneficial ingredients that provide antioxidants, but they're regulated because of their sugar levels.

How much BARF food should I feed my dog?

Unlike kibble food that is measured by the cup, raw dog food is determined by weight, condition, and age of your dog. It's best if you use a kitchen scale, especially if you're mixing the pieces in the ground.

This is important as dogs can get overweight from raw food too, and owners don't realize until it's too late.

Feed your dog approximately 2-3% of his weight and split it into two dishes. For example, if your dog is 50 lb, they'd need ¾ or ½ of an lb raw food per meal. 

However, you can adjust the portion based on how active your dog is. To know the exact amount of raw food to give your dog use the following formula :

Take your dogs weight in pounds and multiple by:

  • .03 (for very active pets, or to gain weight)
  • .025 (normal activity/maintain current weight)
  • .02 (inactive/need to lose weight)

For a puppy, feed them 5% of their body weight (about ¼ lb per 10 lbs. of body weight). They can eat the portion two or three times a day.

If you're feeding your pet with commercial food, go for a format that suits your dog's needs. For example, small dogs prefer smaller patties or medallions, and large dogs prefer chubs and patties.

Benefits of feeding your dog the BARF diet

There are many benefits known to be associated with this diet. Some of them include:

Improved coat condition

40% of the protein that dogs eat goes to their skin and coat. This means when you feed your pet with low meat protein, cereal diet (such as dry foods), they will not have any spare protein to sustain healthy fur. 

In general, raw food is high in fresh meat and fat that works together to fuel a healthy coat.

Boost dental health

Dogs eating raw foods have less inflamed gums, cleaner teeth, and overall great dental health. This means fewer professional cleanings, which saves you money.

Eliminate allergies

A raw diet can protect your dog from the dog's dermatitis and other allergies. Itchy skin, hair loss, ear problems, and hot spots can all be reduced with a Barf raw food.

Increase energy levels

As your dog feeds on the raw food diet, you'll realize they have more stamina, and they're livelier and happier than before.

Stabilize weight

If your dog is overweight, feeding them with raw food can help them lose weight while maintaining their muscle mass and a healthy weight. You also protect your dog from diseases like diabetes.

Eliminate digestive problems

Dogs eating an imbalanced diet are likely to suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, malabsorption, and constipation. Switching to raw feeding not only prevents your dog from all these issues but also results in smaller, less smelly stools.

Improved behavior

A raw Barf diet can reduce anxiety, aggression, and other mental problems in dogs.

Cons of Barf raw feeding

Many dog owners are very paranoid when it comes to raw food, as they're afraid their dogs might get sick. Although there are some potential risks, it's not as many as you may suspect. Dogs have a stronger constitution than you, and what would make you ill, will often barely affect dogs.

With that said, there is risk in the way you handle and prepare the raw food for your pet. Bacterial presence in raw meat includes salmonella and e.coli, and this can be found in your dog's faeces.

This can be an issue if there are people with low immunity at your home. However, most people aren't affected if hygiene is well maintained when preparing the raw dog meal.

You can further minimize the spread of bacteria by serving the food in stainless steel bowls and washing the bowl when your dog finishes the food.

Another concern is the raw bones in the diet that people fear their dog may swallow by mistake and break their teeth or cause intestinal blockages. Avoid cooked bones for these reasons and go for meaty bones.

Other potential risks to look out for:

  • Some pets may suffer from diarrhea as they switch to a raw diet, but not all dogs experience this
  • Preparing a Barf raw diet that has all the nutrients your dog needs can be time-consuming resulting in a low-nutrition value diet.
  • Nutritional deficiencies may not show for weeks or months after switching to the raw food diet. This is exaggerated by the theory that cooked vegetables are easily digested as compared to raw vegetables. Experts insist that the vegetables be juiced for dogs to get the maximum benefit of nutrients. There are also concerns that homemade raw food may not have nutrients such as phosphorus and calcium.

Adapting a commercial diet to ensure you have a balanced Barf diet 

It's easy to read online and jot down the required ingredients for this diet, but it takes too much legwork to fix a balanced raw meal. Buying commercial raw diet food can simplify your work by a big percentage.

Here are some of your options:

  • Commercial Unprocessed Frozen Options. The diet contains premade, frozen raw meat, and all you need to do is defrost and serve.
  • Commercially Processed Freeze-dried Diets. This raw food doesn't require any refrigeration, and it can last longer than traditional kibble. This is the perfect option when you're traveling with your pet. 
  • Combination Diets. The raw food diet contains a blend of vegetables, vitamins, and grains. You can then buy raw meat from your grocery and combine it.
  • BARF Premium Pet Food. This diet ensures you have the right amount of vegetables, fruit, meat, and bones your dog needs for their raw diet.

Is the Barf diet right for your dog?

The usefulness of this feeding system for dogs is still under research, so it can be trial and error when it comes to your pet's reception of it. Also, not all pets will enjoy raw food, and yours may be one of them. 

If you want your dog to adapt to the BARF food diet, and they don't seem keen on it, consider compromising and supplementing it with commercial food. By doing so, your dog can enjoy the benefits without making it the predominant diet.

It's also important to note that raw food has very high protein levels, which isn't suitable for dogs with liver and kidney problems.

If your pet has gastrointestinal issues that you're working on clearing, it's advisable to start with cooked food before switching to this diet.

How to introduce your dog to a BARF raw food diet

Now that you're well informed of all the benefits your dog gets from a “bones and raw food” diet, it's time to switch to raw feeding. Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Transition slowly. If your dog is new to this diet, don't push them to go all in, in a day. Transition happens in a week. Puppies can take a shorter time as they have better digestive systems than older dogs.
  • Fast your dog half or a full day. Before introducing a new diet, it's advisable to fast your dog so that they're hungry. Feed them with a little bit of the fresh food and see how it goes. If all is good, add more.
  • Monitor your dog. If you realize your pet is experiencing loose stools, it's important to wait until their stool is firm to continue with the diet.

Final thoughts

Some dogs are receptive to BARF food while others are not. Don’t be frustrated if your dog isn’t so thrilled with the new diet.

If you want to switch to a biologically appropriate raw food diet for dogs, it's crucial that you consult with the vet to know what's suitable for your dog.

Once you start giving this food to them, remember to keep an eye on them to see if they're suffering from any infection or allergy from their new diet.

If not, you can then continue feeding them with the BARF dog food diet. You may also consider nutritionally balanced premium raw dog food readily prepared for your pet.