The BARF Diet
OK, so I’m not wild about the name of this diet, but it does have some good qualities. BARF, quite simply, stands for Bones and Raw Food or sometimes Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
Although bones may seem like they’re dead, they are actually living tissue and a very good source of nutrients. They are a source of important minerals like calcium, and they contain both protein and fat, which in turn contains fat-soluble vitamins. The marrow in the center of bones contains iron and the elements needed to form new blood cells. In addition, raw bones have antioxidants important in slowing down the aging process. It is important to only feed raw bones because cooking them hardens them and creates a choking hazard. Cooked bones can also damage your dog’s teeth and shards can be broken off and get lodged in your dog’s throat. Raw bones however are safe for your dog to eat.
The “and raw food” part of the diet contains a wide variety of just about everything you probably prepare for yourself and your family. The difference being that for a dog, you don’t need to cook the food. When raw food is cooked, it loses much of its nutritional value. In addition, the cooking process combines the food elements into compounds that are less digestible than the food was in its natural state.
What many dog guardians do is to simply take some of the family’s food and put it aside for the dog prior to preparing the family’s meal. Because some of the seasonings like onions and garlic that you might use in preparing your family’s food are actually toxic to dogs, be sure to set aside the food for your dog first, before you begin preparing your own meal.
So, what foods should you give your dog? The primary, but by no means the only, ingredient should be protein. This usually comes from meat, but can also be provided by soy, eggs, and certain legumes.
Meat of any type is a source not only of protein, but also of fat, water, and vitamins. Fat and protein are wonderful sources of fuel for your dog’s cells, allowing the body’s cells to carry out their essential functions such as growth and metabolism. Made of amino acids, protein is needed for dogs through-out their lives from puppyhood to senior citizenry.
One important component in meat is essential fatty acids, which help the dog’s body regulate blood pressure, blood clotting, immunity, and inflammation in response to injury. Chicken and pork contain the highest levels of essential fatty acids, while lamb and beef are lower in these nutrients.
As far as minerals, raw meat is very low in sodium and high in potassium. Beef and pork are low in sodium, which can be important if your dog has heart problems. Potassium, which is important to heart health, is very high in pork. On the other hand, meat is not a good source of calcium and magnesium, which is why you need your dog to eat raw bones to pick up these essential nutrients. For zinc, lamb and beef have the highest levels, while beef is the best source of iron.
In order to give your dog adequate levels of all nutrients, it is wise to feed a wide variety of meats, as well as fish. Fish is an excellent source of the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that cannot be naturally produced by the dog’s body and are essential to cardiac health. Similarly, cod liver oil can add omega-3 fatty acids that will improve your dog’s coat texture and quality.
Organ meats are also essential in small amounts because they are highly concentrated in nutrients. Liver and kidney meat can be important during times of high nutritional need such as during stress, pregnancy, and rapid growth.
You don’t need to worry about the bacteria found in raw meats because the dog’s stomach acids are equipped to deal with bacteria, and the intestinal tract does not react to e.coli and other food-borne bacteria the same way humans do.
Raw vegetables contain fiber, as well as other nutrients such as enzymes and antioxidants which can help stave off cancer. For example, a single stalk of broccoli contains vitamin C, beta carotene, folic acid, calcium, fiber, chromium, and phytochemicals. Spinach contains iron, fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, B-6, and K. Carrots help your dog make vitamin A, and this important vegetable contains vitamins B, C, D, E, and K, as well as riboflavin, niacin, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and iron. This immense collection of vitamins and minerals nourishes the optic nerve to improve eyesight. Red cayenne peppers contain lycopene, a phytochemical which many scientists think has a preventative role in the fight against cancer.
Fruits are important to your dog’s diet because they contain a large amount of water which is important in flushing toxins from the body, as well as in lubricating all of the body’s functions. In addition, fruit contains simple sugars for quick energy and fiber for colon health. Most raw fruits contain vitamins A and C, as well.
Tropical fruits such as pineapples, mangoes, and guava contain antioxidants. Apples and pears contain pectin, which binds to toxins in the intestines and helps the intestine to push waste through the gastrointestinal tract.
Citrus fruits may help fight cancer, and grapefruits in particular have been shown to help fight anemia. Aside from being an excellent source of vitamin C, oranges contain several important nutrients and flavenoids, which are important in immune system health and may play a preventive role against heart disease, cancer, and age-related degenerative diseases.
Whole eggs are an important part of the BARF diet. The shell provides calcium, while the inside of the egg provides an excellent source of protein and vitamins. Egg yolks can help clear up skin problems.
Flaxseed oil is rich in essential fatty acids or polyunsaturated fats which help to maintain the integrity of all of the body’s cells. The lignans in flaxseed may be important in preventing the development of cancerous tumors. They may also help prevent heart disease and treat kidney problems.
Kelp supplies not only iodine, but also over 60 minerals, 21 amino acids, and carbohydrates. This wonder food promotes the health of the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands.
Alfalfa sprouts cleanse the body and fight infection. In addition, they contain digestive enzymes to help the body absorb nutrients from the digestive tract.
Benefits of the BARF diet
In addition to the disease-fighting qualities of the foods mentioned above, you may see many differences in your dog if you feed the BARF diet. Less tartar will build up on your dog’s teeth, which means his or her breath will be much less offensive. The skin and coat may improve in quality, giving your dog thicker, shinier fur.
Because more of the dog’s food intake will be absorbed from the digestive tract, you will see less stool, and it will likely smell better than the stool resulting from commercially-produced dog foods.
Your dog should lose weight on the BARF diet, and you can adjust his daily meal volume appropriately to keep him at the desired weight. To start, give your dog about 1% of his or her body weight twice a day. For example, if you have a 100 pound dog, you would feed 1 pound of food in the morning and 1 pound at night. For a 10 pound dog, you would serve 1/10th of a pound twice a day. Check out your dog’s waistline, and adjust the meals accordingly to keep the dog at a healthy weight.
For puppies, the proper amount of food is usually about 10% of the body weight, divided into four equal portions throughout the day. This means you will have to continually monitor your puppy’s weight to increase the amount of food as the puppy gains weight.
There are many other forms of natural food diets. Watch for reviews of them in future Straight Poop newsletters!