By Barbara Russo, Esq.
Many people have been choosing to provide their companion animals with a home-prepared, raw diet, instead of commercial dog food. There are different methods of feeding raw diets, including “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” (B.A.R.F.) and the “Prey Model.” The B.A.R.F. model consists of feeding a combination of raw meaty bones, organ meat, muscle meat, eggs, and optional vegetables, grains, dairy and supplements (such as kelp powder, flax oil, and others). Amounts of each are based on percentages and the dog’s weight. The “Prey Model” consists of feeding a diet based on whole prey and excludes anything else, such as dairy, vegetables, fruit or supplements. This diet is based on a desire to mimic the diet of a wolf in the wild. The diet involves feeding large chunks of meat along with small amounts of bone, organs and eggs. Whichever model is followed, a variety of protein sources should be fed (i.e. chicken, rabbit, turkey, venison, beef, lamb, elk, fish, etc.). Do not rely on just one protein source.
With a home-prepared, raw diet, you are better able to control the quality and quantity of food your pet consumes. You control all of the ingredients, making it easy to avoid foods your dog may have a negative reaction to (i.e. allergens) and adjust the diet as needed based on weight, activity level, etc. Unlike highly processed commercial dog food, a raw diet is less processed and contains no artificial additives, colors or preservatives. Fresh foods supply nutrients in their natural form. The high level of processing used for commercial foods causes foods to lose much of their nutritional value, which must then be added back in synthetic form. A raw diet is much closer to a dog’s natural diet, rather than the overly processed commercial dogs foods which often contain a high level of carbohydrates.
Several people who have switched to a raw diet for their dogs have noticed a number of benefits. A raw diet may help with food allergies. Chewing the raw bones promotes cleaner teeth. Some advocates of a raw diet boast better coats and skin, brighter, clearer eyes and less body fat. Some have observed less severity in chronic conditions such as arthritis, ear infections, IBD and other digestive disorders, and some have even noticed reduced amounts of seizures in animals suffering from that condition. While not every dog with health problems gets better when switched to a homemade diet, overall, many who have switched to a raw diet have noticed better overall health in their companion animals.
If you are thinking about switching to a raw diet, do your research to be sure you are feeding a proper balanced diet. There are a number of resources which contain information on feeding raw. For more information, see*:
- Work Wonders: Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones, by Tom Lonsdale
- Give Your Dog a Bone; Grow Your Pup with Bones; and the BARF Diet by Dr. Ian Billinghurst
- Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog, by Carina Beth MacDonald
- Switching to Raw, by Susan Johnson
- Whole Dog Journal, “Have Dinner In,”April, 2007 issue; “A Raw Deal,” May, 2007 issue; and “Keeping It Raw,” August 2007 issue
*This list is by no means exhaustive; do a Google search on B.A.R.F. and you will find a number of articles and references to other books.