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B.A.R.F: Bones And Raw Food

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Bones And Raw Food

Does your dog BARF?

blaze BARF 12weeks

What is BARF?

BARF is the acronym for Bones And Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. This means feeding a dog raw meats, vegetables & fruit, not processed commercial dog foods . Initially most people are shocked at the concept of actually feeding our dogs REAL food. But it is in fact the most natural diet for our doggy (and kitty) companions.

The benefits of natural raw foods are noticeable almost immediately. Healthier, cleaner teeth & gums, a healthy shiny coat, improved energy levels, increased mobility in older arthritic dogs, stronger immune system, less doggy odor & improved breath, smaller stools, slower more steady growth rates in puppies, etc.

There are a number variations of the BARF diet, some include grains, others totally exclude them, others include dairy products, others again exclude them. The diet is as individual as the people feeding their dogs. Best is to read as much as you can and determine your own path.

The Basics of the BARF Diet

Your dog's diet should be comprised of 60-80% raw meaty bones. The dog must be able to eat the bone as well as the meat. Chicken or turkey necks, backs, wings , frames or carcasses are the usual and most common RMB fed to dogs. Whole rabbit, duck, pheasant and quail are great substitutes when available. Some pork bones(such as neck bones) also are consumable by the dog. Whole fish can be used in place of RMB occasionally (up to once a week). A large knuckle bone would not be considered a RMB since only a small amount of the bone is actually eaten. The RMB can be given either whole or ground. Whole would be ideal as it provides lots of exercise for the jaw and neck muscles and helps keep the teeth clean. But if your dog is elderly, missing many teeth, has difficulty chewing, or if you are worried about feeding whole bones them by all means grind them up! Ground bones are much better than no bones at all!

Muscle meats (this inludes heart, gizzard and tongue as well) can also play a part in your dogs diet. Now and then you can feed a pure muscle meat meal (no bones) but don't do this too often as boneless meat is high in phosphorous but low in calcium. Muscle meats are great for grinding or mincing and mixzing with veggies, supplents etc. Keep muscle meats to 20% or less of the overall diet. Chicken, turkey, lamb, goat, rabbit, pork, beef & fish be used. You can even feed emu, ostrich, duck, buffalo, venison, moose, elk, musk ox etc if they are available feel free to give them a try too.

Vegetables and fruit play a small but essential role in the overall health of our pets. Because dogs have a very short intestinal tract they cannot efficiently process vegetable fiber. In the wild, a dog would obtain most of the vegetation material through the process of eating the intestines and stomach contents of their prey. To effectively emulate this process for our domestic dogs, it is necessary to break down the fiber of the vegetable/fruit material . This can be easily done with a juicer (using the remaining pulp), a food processor, a blender or a grinder.

The best and most important vegetable to use are dark leafy greens, such as: romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, beet greens, turnip greens, collards, parsley, cilantro, dandelion, etc. You can feed other veggies too, but in smaller amounts than the leafy greens. Broccolli, cauliflower, cabbage (careful with these 3, they can cause gas, and avoid in dogs with thyroid problems), carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, yellow squash, beets all have high nutritional value. Also usable occasionally but with less nutitional value is cucumber, celery, zucchini, lettuces other than Romaine. Raw potatoes should not be fed, other vegetables from the Nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers & eggplant) can be fed in small to moderate amounts but are best avoided in an arthritic animal as they may aggravate the condition. The only vegetable that would be considered absolutely off limits is onions. A small amount of fresh ginger root and garlic is an excellent addition to the veggie mix.

Fruit is best used ripe to over ripe. Typical fruits found in a BARF diet: apples, bananas, pears, melon, mangoes, berries etc. Fruit should be fed only in small amounts and fed separately from other foods, at least a couple hours away from other is digested much faster than meat and veggies are feeding everything together can cause the fruit to ferment in the gut! That said, small amounts of fruit mixed into the regular meals is well tolerated by most dogs.

Variety is the key to success. Alternate 3 - 4 vegetables. Buy in season produce and be sure to use your vegetable trimmings from your own meals.

The above-mentioned vegetable pulp can be mixed with raw minced meat and formed into patties. These patties can be made daily, however most people find that they can be easily frozen and taken out as required. The patties consist of roughly 50% vegetables and 50% raw minced meat (you can use chicken, beef, lamb) To this mixture you can add such things as yogurt, raw eggs, raw liver, garlic, kelp powder, Vit. B & C This should be mixed into one homogeneous mass so that your dog cannot pick out only the pieces he likes.

These are larger bones like beef knuckle or shank bones. Recreational bones are for chewing and gnawing, rather than eating entirely. This action cleans teeth and massages the gums. Recreational bones should ideally be offered a few times a week, or daily with a teething puppy.

Organ meats, such as liver and kidney, should be fed in small amounts several times a week. (Plan for organ meat to be about 10% of the diet overall) These can be either ground and added to the meals or given in chunks. Organs are very rich so too much can cause loose stools. If you feed chicken backs, take a close look at them, they often have nice pieces of kidney and sometimes lung as well attached to the spine! Heart, although an organ, is made of muscle tissue so should be used as muscle meat rather than organ meat.

Tripe (stomach) is another organ you may come across, and is another organ (like heart) that is not fed like an organ meat as it is a muscular organ. Avoid the bleached white tripe you may find in grocery stores, it is highly processed and good, with little nutrition left in it. The "good" tripe is raw, unprocessed 'green' tripe...this still has wonderful enzymes, beneficial bacteria, and pre-digested vegetable matter. Tripe has a perfect calcium/phosphorous ratio (comparable to RMB), so it can be fed in place of a RMB meal several times a week if desired. Only two problems with tripe....for one it stinks!!! (But the dogs love it!) The other is lack of availability in many areas. You will never find green tripe in a butcher shop or grocery store, since it is not something people eat....but many raw-food companies sell it, and it can ever be mail-ordered! Check with other local raw feeders for sources, or check with me and I will try to find you a source.

Eggs (ideally free-range) can be added to the diet. They are an excellent souce of protein and vitamins. They can be mixed with veggies or ground meat, and some dogs will eat them plain. Always include the shell when you feed eggs, you may have to crush it up into little bits and mix it in. Contraty to the 'old wives tale', raw eggs are very good for your dog as long as fed whole! Egg white does contain avidin, which binds up biotin.....but the yolk contains a ton of biotin which more than offsets the avidin. So the only way you would produce a biotin deficiency from feeding eggs would be to feed egg white only for a long period of time.

Dairy is not an essential part of the diet, but many dogs enjoy it so it can be added occasionally for variety if you wish. Plain yogurt and cottage cheese are the best (buy the higher-fat ones, not the low-fat), other cheeses can be used as training teats, etc. Many dogs have problems digesting cows milk, but will do fine on goats milk. The best "dairy" in my opinion is kefir (most health food and some grocery stores have it), it is somewhat similar to yogurt but has a much better profile of beneficial bacteria cultures and is excellent for the digestive tract.

Some of the most common supplements to add to the veggie patties are Apple Cider Vinegar, Kelp, Alfalfa, Cod Liver Oil, Vitamin's B, C & E, and a high-EFA(essential fatty acid) oil such as Flaxseed Oil or ground Flax seed, Hemp Seed Oil, Salmon or Fish body oil, or Arctic Vigor (marine oil). The freezing process destroys some of the benefits of some of the supplements (especially Vitamin E) so it is best to add them just prior to feeding. Don't worry about trying to supplement with everything every single day, doing that will result in over-supplementation! The most essential supplements are EFA's, I feed one source or another of EFA almost every day. Kelp and alfalfa are excellent "whole food" vitamin and mineral sources, they can be added to the diet several times a week. Cod liver oil is probably not needed if you feed organs regularly, and your dog receives regular exposure to sunlight. B vitamins again are in ample amount in organ meats so not needed to be supplemented in most dogs. Vitamin C & E are two you will probably want to supplement. Vitamin C I give in small amounts (not megadoses) several times a week. Vitamin E is needed when you are supplementing regularly with EFA or feeding raw fish, I give Vit E a couple times a week.


If you feed twice a day, then offer the Veggie patties at one meal and the raw meaty bones at the next meal. If you feed once a day, feed the patties first, followed by the RMB's. If you feed them both at the same time your dog will often eat the bones and leave the veggies. Alternatively, you might want to try feeding only RMB's for 2-3 days, then a meal of just the veggie patty mix on the next day. Many BARFers fast their dogs once a week, giving just water and possibly a recreational bone. This allows the digestive tract a rest, and helps clean out toxins and parasites from the system. Remember, a wild dog will not necessarily eat every day. In fact, many BARF-fed dogs will fast themselves!


Feeding raw food can make traveling a little more difficult, but it certainly can be done! If you will be traveling where there will be electricity, a portable electric cooler can be used as a mini-fridge and will keep you meat and veggies fresh as long as needed. For camping where you have no electricity, a cooler will suffice for several days (the Coleman Extreme brand will keep meat frozen at least 5 days I hear, you could also consider using dry ice in the cooler), beyond that you can go to non-raw but still healthy alternatives, such as canned salmon, tuna or mackeral for protein with canned pumpkin for veggies. Eggs will also keep quite well. There are also several forms of dehydrated diets available, you just have to add water to it and there is dinner! They can be quite expensive, but are great for traveling! Wysong Archetype, Steves Real Food, Solid Gold Buckaroo Beef, and NRG (this last one contains grain, so may not be suitable for all dogs) are some of the most common brands of dehydrated diet. BalanceDiet, a fermented raw food, is another travel-food possibility and will keep for quite a while without refrigeration.


I highly recommend reading the following books: "Natural Nutrition For Dogs And Cats: The Ultimate Diet" by Kymythy Schultze, as well as "Give Your Dog A Bone" and "Grow Your Pup With Bones" both by Ian Billinghurst. There are many e-mail lists on the topic of feeding BARF, including a list specifically for BARFing Tollers! The list is called RawToller, you can find more info here.

There are also many excellent web sites with lots of information, one of the best for beginners is the BARF For Beginners FAQ, this has the 50 most frequently asked BARF questions newcomers ask!


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