A new diet for dogs has been going around call the BARF diet. The acronym BARF stands for two common phrases: “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” or “Bones And Raw Food”. Developed by veterinarian and nutritionist Dr. Ian Billinghurst, the diet has grown in popularity but the question remains is it really better for your dog than traditionally formulated dog foods? More importantly, is it safe?
First lets look at what exactly the BARF diet is and what it consists of. The basic premise of the BARF diet is that dogs are descended from wolves who ate raw meat, not dog food so logically since that is what they evolved to eat it must be better to give them a diet closer to that. According to the guide published by Perfectly Rawsome a BARF diet should include the following: - 70% muscle meat - 10% raw edible bone - 5% liver - 5% other secreting organ - 7% vegetables - 2% seeds or nuts - 1% fruit
This mix of foods is chopped up or roughly ground and served to the canine raw. According to some experts this diet provides a balanced nutritionally sound meal for your dog that is close to what their ancestors the gray wolf ate in the wild and is easier for their digestive system to process and extract nutrients from. It is also said to provide other health benefits including shinier coats, healthier skin, and cleaner teeth.
Obviously the greatest concern is the propagation of infectious disease. We cook our food specifically to kill pathogens skipping this important step is inevitably going to increase the likely hood of spreading disease but how likely is it? One study published in the British Medical Journal (BJM) Vet Record, detected Enterobacteriaceae in all samples and over 50% “exceeded a level of 5000 bacteria/g”, which is the safe maximum legal threshold for safety in the EU. What does all that mean in lay terms though? It means the possibility of spreading disease like Salmonella is significantly higher on a BARF diet. To make matters worse these are human communicable disease which means they can be passed on to you and your family. That's not to say the odds are high, the overall odds of spreading disease with dry dog foods is very low so a significant increase could still be very low and it's not like dry dog foods are with out controversy; however, The increase in likelihood is noteworthy and is a factor that definitely should be considered before transitioning your dog over to a BARF diet. Does it work though? Well that is a complicated question. Does a diet who's protean consist entirely of nuts instead of meat work for everyone? Not if you're allergic to nuts. The same is true for dogs. Dogs are all different, not all of them can do a raw food diet, some breeds can't process raw food, some dogs have digestive complications or are just old. As a result the ultimate answer of weather or not BARF will work for your dog is, it depends on your dog. As always it is strongly advised that you talk to your vet before making any drastic changes to your dog's diet.