BARF Dog Food: What it is and What it isn’t

The Barf Diet: Raw Feeding for Dogs and Cats Using Evolutionary Principles

According to evolution, it took us a long time to get to where we are. Where we are being this technologically-advanced, mechanically-assisted world we live in. If you think everybody is happy about this world as it is, you have another guess coming. The idea of BARF dog food probably shows this.

Going natural has become a thing and it looks like it’s here to stay. More and more people (and even animals) are jumping on the train.

Talking about pets, Mother Nature seems to have something for your dog in what is referred to as the BARF dog food/diet. We can read your mind, so, no, BARF dog food is not food that makes your dog barf (who would want that? Is that even a thing?).

But, don’t you worry, we’ll explain.



What Is BARF?

The Barf Diet: Raw Feeding for Dogs and Cats Using Evolutionary Principles


BARF is an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Dog Food or Bones And Raw Food. It’s kinda obvious what this means. Putting your dog on a BARF dog food diet means that your dog gets to eat purely natural food without additives, chemicals, or even cooking!

BARF dog food should not be confused with the Prey Model Diet. BARF allows for your dogs to eat fruits, vegetables and even healthy oils while the Prey Model Diet doesn’t (more on the Prey Model Diet in the next section).

Ian Billinghurst (he’s the proponent of the BARF dog food diet) came up with this idea sometime in 1993 and swears that it will greatly improve your dog; inside and out.

This Australian veterinarian (Ian Billinghurst) is not the first to advocate for an all-natural diet for dogs. Dogs like racing greyhounds and sled dogs are typically fed all-natural or mostly natural diets. However, Billinghurst advocates for a BARF diet for all dogs.



Prey Model Diet

To better understand the peculiarities of the BARF dog food diet, it is necessary to examine its sibling. It is possible that the advocators for the Prey Model Diet (referred to as PMD henceforth) are just tired of dogs behaving like cry-babies and want to “toughen them up” as it were.

Okay, seriously, the idea for the PMD is that dogs (all kinds) be fed, as much and as close as possible, what their ancestors were fed — meat and bones.

It might seem like BARF and PMD are all about the same things but there is a basic difference. PMD doesn’t allow for fruits and vegetables, just flesh. The flesh should not be cut up and served prettily but served whole (yup, that’s probably why the model is named ‘prey’.

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The idea behind this idea is that dogs are naturally carnivores meaning they eat flesh. So it is going against their nature to eat fruits and veggies.


What Foods Are Not BARF Dog Food Natural?

Now, going back to our topic of discuss, you need to understand that there is an art to preparing a BARF diet for your dog. That the BARF dog food diet is all-natural doesn’t mean you can just toss together a couple of unprocessed foods and have your dog eat them. Now, this is not saying that you have to dress the table and use your best china either.

What we are driving at is that there are some foods that are, though natural, not BARF natural (which basically means you can’t serve them to your dog). Here are a few:


1. Onions & Garlic

For many of us, onions and garlic are important components of our meal. Raw or cooked, onions and garlic are absolutely delicious and nutritious. However, serving your dog onions and/or garlic is probably the worst idea there is.

According to Susan Konecny (DVM) on Petmd, an onion/garlic diet or a diet that contains onions or garlic could kill your dog. (Yup, it’s as serious as that)

According to Petmd, consumption of onions and garlics of as little as 15 grams by your dogs can be dangerous. It really doesn’t matter how you present it, it could be crushed so that it is unrecognizable but still cause very recognizable damage.


2. Grapes And Raisins

Grapes and raisins (which are just dried grapes) have been said to cause acute kidney failure in dogs and lack of urine production. Petmd goes on to list some other symptoms of grape ingestion. Some of them as mild as vomiting and foul breath to as serious as seizures and even coma.


3. Raw Beans

If you are not going to cook the beans then just steer clear. They make difficult digestion for your dogs and contain toxins that can only be killed when cooked.

It is pretty obvious that, just like any other thing natural, sticking with a BARF diet will require a whole lot of your commitment. You might also want to be careful with fruits that contain tiny seeds. Remember that your dog is not a bird and so is not adapted to eat seeds, neither is he human, so he can’t be patient enough to pick out the seeds.



Is There A Kind Of Recipe For BARF?

Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog


Of course, there is (actually there are loads of them), and we won’t leave you to sweat it out alone. However, we have to state here that you consult your veterinarian before you decide to place your dog on any of the BARF diets that will be mentioned.

There are a number of foods and food combinations you can serve your dog and we’ve listed just a few, borrowing from the categorization on



1. Meats And Bones

These are what should form the major part of your dog’s diet bearing in mind that your dog is a carnivore. However, you want to be very careful with what you give your dog. There are a lot of meat options to choose from; beef, turkey, pork, you know the rest.

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Now, be careful to wash the meat. That you are serving your dog an all-natural food does not mean you have to leave your dog to fend for himself. Wash the meat so that your dog eats something healthy and people don’t begin to wonder if he even has an owner.

Be sure that the bones are safe too; no splinters. You don’t want to regret treading the natural path because splinters punctured holes in your dog’s insides.

And lastly, the amount of bones and meats you give to your dog should be commensurate to his size.

BARF dog food



2. Vegetables

If you are a vegetarian you might decide to turn your dog to one (this is not natural for a dog, by the way, they are carnivores). A more preferable way to go about this is by combining it with meats and bones.

So, feel free to go wild with your veggies. They are, for the most part, healthy for your dog. Just be sure to steer clear of garlic. Fruits can also be incorporated into the diet but be careful with those.


3. Supplements

This is something to seriously consider if you are opting for a BARF diet. Minerals like Vitamins B & E and Zinc are not readily present in raw meat. Think about feeding your dog supplements every once in a while but be sure to get your vet’s approval first.

If you are running scared already, thinking of all the work there is to do, you need not fear. People with their eyes ever on the prize have decided to help you out for a fee and the time it takes you to walk to the store. They do the killing and the cutting and the freezing. You do the thawing and the serving, and receive the loving. Everybody wins.




Is BARF Dog Food Something I Should Be Considering?

Instead of answering your question directly we’ll give you the facts (research and testimonials) and leave the decision making to you. Now that we have a deal, let’s proceed.


Arguments Against BARF Dog Food

Webmd tells us of Lisa M. Freeman (DVM, PhD) who published an evaluation she headed on all-natural dog foods in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association.

She writes against a raw food diet stating that their seeming awesome results can be produced by processed foods without the risks that raw foods are. The evaluation showed that raw foods have too many nutritional deficiencies that you begin to question the need for them in the first place.

Another Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Joseph Wakshlag (PhD) corroborates this evaluation on Webmd. He says that a BARF dog food diet can give your dog a poor coat, bad skin, weak bones and can even cause anemia.

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The FDA is also not in support of a BARF dog food diet. However, their own concern is bacteria. We all know that cooking is one of the ways we get rid of bacteria in food. Eliminating this process exposes one to the bacteria that is inherent in raw food.

The FDA is also concerned about the humans that will be handling these raw foods.

A study was conducted on commercially available raw meats in 2006 and the results are not funny. It showed that some raw meats contain salmonella and a good number of them also contain E. coli bacteria. It is not just gloomy for the dog but for the human too. The human can get infected if the dog’s feces contain these bacteria.

Other arguments give the fear of giving your dog an unbalanced diet and the potential for the bone to choke as reasons for staying away from a BARF diet.

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Arguments For BARF Dog Food

Wakshlag’s stance clashes with the testimony of a certain Barbara Benjamin-Creel. According to her, she switched her 3 dogs to an all-natural diet after the German shepherd was diagnosed with cancer.

She claims the switch was too late for the German but the other two (who are 11) improved significantly with shinier coats and better breath (don’t we all wish?)

A DVM, Doug Knueven, seems shocked at the bacteria fuss. His argument? There are bacteria but why should it stop you from eating something beneficial? He argues that the bacteria should not be a threat but a motivation to be sterile and clean.

Other arguments give clean teeth, high levels of energy and little stools as reasons for going for a BARF diet.

However, both parties agree that BARF is not for every dog. Dogs with severe kidney or liver problems should not be placed on a raw food diet. The high-level of protein is not something the condition would agree with.

Dogs with cancer and even puppies should also not be fed an all-natural diet as well.

As for, dogs with digestive issues, they should be eased into it to give their systems the time to adjust.



In Conclusion

If you’ve gone through the entire article and are still OK with a BARF diet, there are just a few things we will like to remind you:

  • Your dog is not you. What this means is that not everything that is healthy for you is healthy for your dog.
  • Your dog is a carnivore. Consider this if you are a vegetarian and are thinking of making your dog one. You’re an omnivore which basically means you can eat anything. Your dog is a carnivore which basically means he can’t.
  • Putting your dog on a BARF diet will require a lot of time and money commitment. A BARF diet is typically more expensive than something processed. Plus it takes time to make something raw into something healthy.
  • Cleaning up after your dog is of the essence especially if you have little kids. Never leave anything raw where your kids can reach. As manufacturers usually say, “Keep out of reach of children”.

If you read all these and didn’t break a sweat (even if you did no biggie) then you sure are ready for the transition. Enjoy! (Your dog should, that is).

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