Where dog nutrition is concerned a raw diet or BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) is the food that nature intended for dogs. So, what does the term BARF mean and how can you ensure that your dog is getting the right balanced raw dog food diet? If you’re new to raw feeding then do also check out our raw dog food for beginners raw feeding guide and explore our full grain free dog food range.
What Does BARF Mean?
Adopted correctly, a BARF diet can increase the health, life expectancy and reproductive capacity. As a result, this can mean fewer visits to the vet. The term biologically appropriate means that the food that is ingested is easily digested and is absorbed by the body rather than being passed through the system as waste. The dog will use the many nutrients to stay strong and healthy.
Unfortunately, many non-raw dog foods are highly processed and full of additives and fillers and/or carbohydrates which have a low biological value and are passed through the body as waste.
Because a raw diet consists of minimal carbohydrates and absolutely no processed ingredients whatsoever, the biological value of the food is significantly higher meaning that the dog absorbs virtually every bit of goodness from what they ingest. One of the first things that new raw feeders will notice, once their dog has adapted to a raw diet, is a vast reduction in bowel movements and a smaller, firmer stool. Of course, this is to be expected; when you have less rubbish going in, you will have less rubbish coming out! This is just one benefit of feeding a balanced raw diet though. Other valuable pluses include:
- Increased vitality and improved energy levels, especially in older dogs
- Promotes a healthier immune system
- Shiny, glossy coat and healthy skin
- Cleaner teeth and less odorous breath
- More efficient digestions for dogs with sensitive stomachs
- Smaller stools and less flatulence
- A balanced raw diet can aid with anal gland issues
- Stable temperament
- Less allergies and food intolerances
Raw meat, offal, bone and some green nutrients are the key components of a balanced raw diet. Each one offers different yet vital nutritional benefits, plus the all-natural, un-processed ingredients mean that canines are able to absorb and utilise almost all of the goodness they consume.
Muscle meat is the core component of a raw diet and is an important source of protein. It also provides hormones, enzymes and energy and can help to keep a dog’s immune system strong. While meat like pork is not recommended, there are several human grade meat options available:
- Poultry such as chicken, turkey and duck
- Oily fish such as salmon – low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals
- Beef – rich in protein and a good source of fat, beef is also high in nutrients, zinc and B vitamins
- Green tripe – a natural probiotic for the gut
“Give a dog a bone”, we’ve all heard the expression by why do dogs need bones? It’s not just so that they have something to chew on and keep themselves occupied. There are also canine dietary and nutritional requirements which make it a critical element of a raw diet. The calcium and phosphorous is necessary, especially in larger breeds, for healthy bone and joint development. Bone also promotes a nice firm stool too which in turn naturally assists the dog’s anal glands excretion.
Contrary to the popular myth, bone is not a choking hazard unless it is cooked. Once cooked it becomes brittle and can splinter. The bone in ProDog Raw is ground down very fine so that it is easy to chew and digest, providing the raw dog food with valuable nutrients yet being safe even for puppies (so we also include it in our raw puppy food).
Offal is the term used to describe the internal organs of an animal such as the liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines. In the wild none of the animal would go to waste and offal is a great source of nutrients. It is important however not to feed too much to your dog as sources like liver can contain very high concentrated levels of some vitamins and minerals.
When it comes to including vegetables in a raw diet, opinion is divided between owners. While some prefer to give their dog a balance of meat and some vegetation, there are those who prefer to feed a meat only option. It’s not just owners that have an opinion on this – your dog will have a preference as well. Let’s take a look at some of the vegetables that are recommended as part of a balanced raw diet and the benefits that they offer:
- Carrots – An excellent source of carotenoids, fibre and vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin K, carrots are also a good source of potassium, magnesium, most of the B vitamins and phosphorous
- Broccoli – Offers an excellent source of dietary fibre and calcium
- Kale – This supercharged leafy vegetable contains a good source of vitamins including A, C and E and calcium
While meat, offal, bone and vegetation form the staples of a balanced raw diet, there are many tasty natural treats that you can also give your dog. While the supermarket or dog food brands often pack theirs full of additives, sugars and processed ingredients, natural rehydrated treats offer a healthy alternative. Lamb shoulder strips, duck necks, feet and wings, calf hooves and rabbit ears are all examples of treats that are packed full of nutrients. Keep them in your pocket as high worth training treats.
Fruit is another form of healthy reward and there are many that you can offer your dog as titbits:
- Blueberries – this antioxidant rich superfood is not only good for humans but also dogs, offering a great source of fibre and phytochemicals
- Pineapple – in small amounts they make the perfect tasty treats. Rich in vitamin c, pineapple also contains vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and folate.
- Strawberries – full of antioxidants, high in fibre and rich in vitamin C
BARF endorse the use of additional dog supplements to a raw diet which ensure that your dog’s nutritional requirements and well-being are fully supported. You can find out more about ProDog nutritional supplements and the benefits that they offer here.
If you are considering switching to a balanced raw diet and want to find out more, we would be happy to answer your questions. Simply contact us for more information or check out our extensive range of meat/veg complete meals or meat only meals.