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, play normally, fight off infections or have a long healthy life. 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 type that contains a mixture of fruits, vegetables, bones, uncooked meat, herbs, whole grains, and supplements.

The raw diet has a higher protein and fat percentage and lower carbohydrate percentage as compared to commercial foods. This helps dogs 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 sensitivities, digestive issues as well as maintaining an ideal weight.

The biologically appropriate raw food diet, therefore, mimics the raw food dogs ate before they were domesticated.

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

Common recommendations for the BARF diet ratios are as follows: 1% fruit, 2% nuts or seeds, 5% secreting organs, 7% vegetables, 10% raw edible bone, 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

Raw edible bone is the source of phosphorus, calcium, and other vital minerals.

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 in a BARF diet ensure dogs receive phytochemicals essential nutrients. Vegetables also contain many health boosting and disease preventing compounds that simply aren’t found in meat.

Liver

Liver is a crucial ingredient as it provides dogs with water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. The starting guideline is 5%, but if your dog is sensitive, feeding them 2% liver is adequate.

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

Seed and nuts act as a source of fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids. Adding seeds and nuts will help to formulate a complete and balanced raw dog diet. It's advisable to soak and ground the seeds and nuts before cooking. Soaking seeds and nuts reduces 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 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 by yourself. This is important as dogs can become overweight from raw food too. Feed your dog approximately 2-3% of its 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 it 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.

Benefits of feeding your dog the BARF diet

There are many benefits known to be associated with this diet, including::

Improved coat condition

40% of the protein that dogs eat goes to their skin and coat. This means when you feed your pet with a low meat protein such as kibble, the dog 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 dog dermatitis and other allergies. Itchy skin, hair loss, ear problems, and hot spots can all be reduced with a BARF diet.

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 it raw food can help it lose weight while maintaining its muscle mass. You also protect your dog from other sicknesses that stem from being overweight such as 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, it also results in smaller, less smelly stools.

Improved behavior

A 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.

You can 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 regarding raw bones in the food. People fear their dog may swallow bones by mistake or it may 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. A slow transition is always recommended.
  • Preparing a BARF diet from scratch can be time-consuming.
  • 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.

The above risks are certainly something to be concerned about. This is why we recommend the raw dog food by Petcubes as it is already prepared with the best ingredients, raw, fresh and portioned according to size. It is very convenient to serve to your dog.

Do BARF diets meet nutrient requirements for my dog?

Dogs have specific nutrient requirements that have been studied and described for decades.

BARF diets are mostly put together in terms of ingredients and may not meet all nutrient requirements for your dog. Adult dogs are able to cycle over a few days, meaning some nutrients in excess in one day can be carried over to the next few days, however even this rotation method needs to be carefully planned.

Using a rotation of animal meats, organs and seeds/nuts may help to reduce the chances of nutrition deficiency, however the only sure way is to calculate the nutrient content of the diet yourself.

Is the BARF diet right for your dog?

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. You can slowly switch over to an entirely BARF diet over a period of time.

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

Here are some tips on how to do switch over to raw feeding:

  • 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 before continuing the diet.

BARF diet for puppies

Besides lots of love and attention, your puppy also requires a nutritious diet. You can start your puppy on raw food or a BARF diet when they are about 8 to 12 weeks.

Similar to adults, the BARF diet for puppies should be 70% muscle meat, 10% raw edible bone, 10% fruits and veggies, 5% liver, and 5% secreting organs. However, puppies do need adequate calcium and phosphorus to ensure healthy bone development so do check with your vet before starting your little pup on the BARF diet.

Benefits of raw feeding your puppy include:

  • Stronger bone and muscle structure
  • Stronger immune system
  • Natural foods contain more digestible proteins
  • Natural foods have high essential oil content
  • Raw food contains healthy bacteria that promote a healthy gut
  • Raw food can have a positive effect on the behavioral patterns of puppies.

Is raw dog food safe?

You may feel nervous if it’s your first time feeding your dog the BARF diet. After all, some dogs might not take well to dietary changes. However, raw dog food is safe for your canine. Your dog’s digestive system is designed to kill many of the bacteria that raw food contains.

The chances of a dog falling sick from bacteria in raw meat is quite low. Nonetheless, there are several raw feeding safety tips that can help ensure raw dog food safety, such as:

  • Make sure that the meat is stored properly
  • Wash your hands before and after preparing food for your dog
  • Use natural and pet-safe disinfectants
  • Practice safe feeding practices
  • Avoid using plastic bowls

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 - but most love it.

If you want to switch to a biologically appropriate raw food diet for dogs, it's important to keep your vet in the loop.

Once you start giving this food to them, remember to keep an eye on them and their poop to see if they're suffering from any digestive upsets 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.

For more information on raw feeding, our article ‘Raw Dog Food for Beginners - All You Need to Know!’ is a comprehensive guide on this topic.

Reviewed by: 

Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.

You have successfully subscribed!