9 Myths About Feeding Dogs a BARF Diet

This is a guest post from Rosemary, founder of GermanShepherdCorner.com. Let’s show her some love by sharing and commenting on her great work!

If you’re looking to find out more about feeding your dog a raw diet you’re in the right place.

And, if you’re new to all this, there’s something you should know…

Dog nutrition is a controversial subject.

Kibble feeders and raw feeders argue.  Raw feeders argue among themselves (BARF v. Whole Prey).  Cooked diet feeders argue with raw feeders.  And then you have the anti-raw feeders – they argue with everyone.

Personally I don’t care much for the arguing.

I feed my dogs a BARF diet and so today I’d like to dispel some of the most common myths around feeding dogs a BARF diet.

So What’s a B.A.R.F. Diet?

Yes, I know the acronym is a terrible one.  My husband says he wants to barf when he sees the food.

And in all fairness, it’s not the most attractive looking food!  But my dogs don’t seem to mind.

BARF used to stand for Bones and Raw Food.  But it’s since been upgraded to Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.

And in a nutshell that’s what it is.  Feeding your dog the appropriate food he or she is meant to eat based on their biology.

Myth #1 – Bones are Dangerous for My Dog

Generally speaking bones aren’t dangerous for your dog, however cooked bones certainly are!

The process of cooking bones results in a change of bone structure.  Making them indigestible and particularly brittle.

So, it’s cooked bones you should avoid feeding your pooch.

Raw bones on the other hand, will only impact your dog’s life in a positive way.  Raw bones are soft, chewable and easily digested.  They provide a major source of calcium and phosphorus, making them a very important part of a dog’s diet.

And no one can ignore the amazing teeth cleaning benefits of feeding raw bones.  None of my 3 dogs have ever needed dental work, and my eldest, Charley is 9 years old.  Her gnashers are beautifully clean.

Because a BARF diet is essentially a raw ground diet, there’s no need to feed your dog whole bones.  Although, I do recommend doing it anyway (but more about that later).

Myth #2 – Raw Meat Will Make My Dog Aggressive

This myth originally stems from the transition to a BARF diet.  Many dog owners experience their dog as more protective over their food when they’re first exposed to a raw diet.

This is simply because your dog sees the raw meat and bones as a higher value food source than the regular bowl of kibble you offer them at meal times.  And once your dog realizes this food is ‘for real’ and not a one-off, the protectiveness usually disappears.

If you’re feeding 2 or more dogs, I’d suggest feeding them separately to begin with.  Just to avoid dog-dog aggression. Although I never had this problem with mine.

So don’t worry.  A diet containing raw meat will not turn your dog into Stephen King’s Cujo!  A dog that’s aggressive towards humans, needs further training and possibly the input from a behaviorist.

Myth #3 – Raw Diets are too Expensive

Raw diets do not have to be expensive at all.  In fact a BARF diet may actually save you money in the long run.
And diversifying your dog’s meat and bone sources is a great way to save on costs.

Think outside the box…

Meats like turkey, beef or chicken are your go to muscle meats.  But rabbit, deer and other ‘wild meats’ are perfect for a BARF diet too.  Just pick up whatever specials you find – this will save you money and help with that diversifying.

As long as it’s human grade meat from a reliable source, you’re good to go!

You’ll be amazed at the great deals you can find on human grade meat.  Finding a high quality supplier of meat is critical to ensuring that you get the best meat for your buck.

So, befriend your local butcher or visit farmer’s markets.  Or if you’re lucky enough to know hunters, take advantage of that.

With a BARF diet you can include just about any part of the prey animal’s meat.  Including organ meats like liver, kidneys, heart and lungs.

And of course unbleached, green tripe – yup! Dog’s love tripe.

These are all cheap ‘cuts’ but if they come from an animal that’s fit for human consumption they are just fine.

Also, increased dog health means a huge amount of savings on vet bills.  Money you can put towards preparing high quality meals with the best ingredients.   And you’re still likely to be spending less than you are on vet bills.

Heck, you’ll be seeing so little of your vet, you might even forget what he or she looks like!

I know, because this happened to me.

Myth #4 – Dogs are Living Longer Because of the Enhanced Nutrition Provided by Kibble Diets

It’s true. The lifespan of our dogs is increasing, and it is claimed that this is due to the rise of the kibble diet.  But, it can be also be argued that this increase in lifespan is actually due to the improved medical care that our beloved dogs receive in today’s modern world.

Yes, kibbled dog food has vitamins and minerals. But those are added after the baking process.  So they don’t have the same nutritional value as whole foods do.

Myth #5 – A BARF Diet is not Balanced

Feeding your dog only raw meat is not a balanced diet and will lead to problems.  But, if you are feeding your a variety of meats, bones, eggs, fruits and veggies, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about.

Just like with our own diets, nutritional needs are met over time. Not on a meal-by-meal basis.

A BARF diet prepared with this in mind will even out over time providing the correct the proportions of fat, protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that your best friend needs.

The vast majority of pet food companies state that your dog will require every meal to have a balanced nutritional profile. This is simply not true and impossible to achieve.

Look at your dog’s diet like you do your own.  You don’t painstakingly calculate each meal to the finest nutritional value – unless you’re a bodybuilder.  You eat a balanced diet with healthy, whole foods and the rest is taken care of by mother nature.

Myth #6 – Canines are too Far Removed from Wolves to Thrive on a BARF Diet

It is true that dogs of today are different from wolves.  But it’s only their external appearance and behavior that’s changed.  The anatomy and physiology of your dog is still very much the same as a wolf.

And to further debunk this myth it has been found that dogs and wolves share 99.8% of their mitochondrial DNA (Wayne, R.K. Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family).

A BARF diet made from fresh, whole ingredients supports your dog’s immune system for optimal health – just like nature intended.

Myth #7 – Dogs Don’t Need Fruits and Veggies in Their Diets

Often times in the wild, a wolf pack will eat whatever partially digested vegetation is left in the prey animal’s stomach.  Dogs, like wolves are omnivores and scavengers by nature – they can eat just about anything.

Vegetables – especially green leafy ones – are an excellent source of health promoting antioxidants and phytochemicals, vitamins and enzymes.  And the natural fiber found in veggies helps with digestion.  Increased digestion means your dog’s body is making use of all those wonderful nutrients it’s getting.

And, no, your dog does not need starch or grains as a source of carbohydrates.  It’s fruits that give the carbs they need. Fruits are valuable energy foods for your pooch.

Both fruits and veggies help to alkalize the body.  Keeping the alkalinity and acidity of a diet in equilibrium is very important in keeping your dog in tip top shape.

Your dogs stomach becomes more acidic when they eat a raw diet.  But the liver, pancreas, heart, hormones, gallbladder and kidneys all function far better in a more alkaline environment. A body high in acidity can give cause to inflammation which this can then escalate into more serious chronic diseases.

So keeping things in balance with fruits and veg is ideal.  Balance is especially important as your dog begins his or her senior years.  Which is when most degenerative diseases rear their ugly heads.  Fruits and veggies work their magic to do this in a natural way.

Myth #8 – The Bacteria in Raw Food will Harm My Dog

This is one of the myths that had me worried to begin with…

But your dog is designed to deal with bacteria.  Your pooch carries an enzyme in their saliva called Lysozyme, which has antibacterial qualities.

Also, a dog’s stomach has a pH level of 2.  As I mentioned, this is a very acidic environment in which most bacteria has no chance of survival.

Your dog also has a uniquely designed digestive tract which is very short.  A short digestive tract coupled with a highly acidic environment means bacteria doesn’t have any time to colonize.

And if you’re worried about worms, don’t be!

They don’t survive the short digestive tract and acidic environment either.

As a point of interest, when dogs eat a raw diet their bodies will quickly let you know if something is out of wack.  I do poop patrol everyday and have never seen any worms or signs of imbalance.

There are a few more precautions you can take to avoid issues with bacteria and worms.

  • Always keep a strict hygiene routine when preparing your dog’s food – just like you do when you make your own food.
  • NEVER feed your dog the intestines of any prey animal.
  • Freeze meats for 72 hours before feeding.  This should kill off any unwanted visitors.

Myth #9 – BARF Diets are Not Suitable for Small Breed Dogs

I know this is a concern for many pooch parents who have small breed dogs.  And I know why…

It’s a fear of choking.

But I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, a BARF diet is perfect for smaller breeds because the ingredients are ground up – bone and all.  So your little dog gets all the goodness without you worrying about trying to fish out a chicken bone that’s gone wrong.

Keep in mind if you’re a petite pooch parent, that with a BARF diet you don’t need to feed whole bones at all.  But I do recommend substituting at least 2 meals a week with a juicy raw, meaty bone.

It’s great for cleaning teeth like I mentioned earlier, but it also stimulates their natural drive to gnaw, rip and tear. Your pooch might be little but there’s as much wolf in them as a Husky, German Shepherd or Rottweiler.

Just stick to these 4 golden rules for feeding bones and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

  • Only feed appropriate sized bones. The rule of thumb is, the bone should be the size of your dog’s head.
  • From beginning to end, always supervise your dog.
  • Never feed weight-bearing bones.
  • Take the bone away once it starts fragmenting.

Conclusion

If you landed here on your quest to research feeding your dog a BARF diet.  And I can give you any advice…

  • Keep a clear head.
  • Price your ingredients.
  • Build friendships with reliable suppliers.
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • Join online communities.
  • Join Forums.
  • Read a lot.
  • And whatever you do, don’t get wrapped up in all the politics.

Changing your dog’s diet so radically is a lifestyle change and it takes planning and commitment.
But once you get into the groove – it’s easy.  And when you see the physical and psychological changes in your dog you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the change sooner.

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