The B.A.R.F diet stands for two common phrases: ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’ and ‘Bones and Raw Food’. Founded by veterinarian and nutritionist Dr. Ian Billinghurst, the principle is to feed dogs the diet they evolved to eat—a raw diet composed of meats and greens that are fresh, uncooked and wild.
The genetic makeup of domesticated dogs supports this. From Europe to North America, dogs are essentially the same as their ancestors, gray wolves.
The raw diet is high in protein, moderate in fat, has minimal amounts of carbohydrates and consists of:
- Muscle meat
- Raw meaty bones
- Organ meat
- Vegetables and fruits
How Much Raw Food Should You Feed?
Regardless of food, whether it be dehydrated, raw or treats, it’s always important to take into account dog weight and age. Check our product descriptions for recommendations.
Benefits of Feeding Your Dog the B.A.R.F. Diet
There are numerous health benefits to feeding your dog raw food. These include:
- Leaner, more muscular build; nearly 60% of dogs are overweight or obese based on body condition scoring, which leads to a number of related conditions
- Skin and coat improvements
- Cleaner teeth and fresher breath
- Less odor
- Vibrant, calm energy
And don't forget about the environmental benefits: feeding raw lowers our ecological footprint. A raw diet is more fully utilized by dogs’ and cats’ bodies, which equates to smaller stools and cleaner litter boxes.
The B.A.R.F. diet also uses animal parts like organ meats that, while safe for us to eat, are usually avoided by humans. Using these parts of the meat reduces waste.
Just as processed food has contributed to human health issues, processed pet foods have done the same for dogs and cats. Veterinarians routinely see chronic conditions such as obesity, allergies and diabetes in dogs today that were much less common in the past. Our companion animals require fresh, vital foods to maintain vibrant health.
Feeding your dog a raw diet is an obvious choice when considering your pet’s wellbeing. Check out some of the amazing health benefits of feeding your dog a raw food diet:
- Cleaner teeth and fresher breath
- A leaner, more muscular build
- Cleaner, healthier ears
- Vibrant, calm energy
- Glowing coats and shining eyes
A sustainable choice
Another major benefit of feeding raw is lowering our ecological foot, and paw, prints. It may not seem earthshaking, but the simple truth is that what’s good for our pets, and for us, is also good for the environment.
A raw diet is better utilized by dogs’ and cats’ bodies, which means smaller stools and cleaner litter boxes. Less work for you and less waste in our landfills!
Our practices and products:
- use primarily locally grown or raised ingredients that are 100% grass-fed, free-range or organic
- utilize human-grade animal parts, such as organ meats that, while perfectly safe for us to eat, are not particularly favored by humans, reducing waste
- minimize packaging and maximize efficiency
What’s wrong with kibble or canned food?
In a nutshell, almost everything. Dogs evolved to be scavenging carnivores and cats obligate carnivores. When fed a diet of commercial, over-processed food, their health and vitality suffers and they are prone to a host of chronic degenerative diseases.
So why do so many people feed their pets kibble?
In a word, convenience. It’s easy and it seems economical – until you add up what you spend on vet bills later. The reality is, food is a complex energy source and, until recently, food has not been thought of a critical part to thriving health.
Why don’t all vets recommend a raw diet?
Vet schools don’t focus on the role of diet in disease prevention; in addition, large pet food companies wield a lot of power in those schools. However, proactive and integrative veterinarians are recommending raw diets.
Is a raw diet safe?
Yes, when the meat comes from 100% grass-fed and pasture raised animals and is processed in a safe, clean commercial kitchen. At home, store and handle raw dog fare just as you would any meat. Of course, these precautions are for us humans — dogs and cats are designed to digest raw meat, and their stronger stomach acids can handle bacteria that ours can’t.
Choose a Balanced B.A.R.F. Diet
Despite the many health benefits, one drawback associated with a raw diet is the risk of giving your dog an unbalanced diet. Many owners want to do it themselves, which is great. Unfortunately, most do not know how to properly balance all of the micronutrients dogs need, which can lead to deficiencies and future health problems.
We at 1st Choice use trusted brands and ensure they are perfect raw dog food recipes to offer the most nutritious diet possible. We use only USDA-inspected, human-grade ingredients, and each entrée is formulated to ensure the right balance of all ingredients—especially vitamins, minerals and other micro-nutrients.
Many companies add a basic one-size-fits-all vitamin and mineral supplement to their foods. The problem with their approach is that the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals between chicken, turkey and beef vary widely. At Raw Bistro, we precisely calibrate our supplement mix to optimize each different entrée—so you know that your pups are getting just what they need when it comes to micro-nutrients. Not too little and not too much.
Research Supports B.A.R.F.
Dr. Karen Becker, integrative wellness veterinarian, is a strong proponent of raw food diets for dogs, and her research backs up her claims.
Her writings on the B.A.R.F. diet shows how beneficial feeding raw can be for your pet compared to traditional kibble. Becker visited experienced veterinarian Dr. Anna Hielm-Björkman from Helsinki, Finland to learn more about her research from studying pet food and raw meat diets in pets from the last 20 years.
Dr. Björkman was studying levels of homocysteine in dogs, which is a marker of inflammation and chronic disease relating to diet. Her experiment involved four groups of dogs for six months. The first group consisted of previously raw fed dogs who were switched to dry food for the second half of the study. The second group consisted of dry-fed dogs that were switched to raw food for three months. The third and fourth groups continued eating their regular food (either dry or raw for the full six-month study).
The research showed that dogs fed raw food who continued to eat raw food had the lowest homocysteine levels, while dogs who ate dry food and continued eating dry food had the highest levels of homocysteine, 10 times more than the raw fed group. Similarly, the dogs raised on raw food and switched to kibble had a fivefold increase in levels of the disease marker in the body at the completion of the study.
How to Get Your Dog Started on Raw
Now that you’re well-informed about the advantages of feeding raw, it’s time to get started! Here are some steps to transition your dog to the B.A.R.F. diet:
If your dog is new to raw food, transition slowly. The complete transition can often be accomplished within a week; however, the key is to go slowly, as you would with any dietary change. Puppies can generally transition over the course of a few days, as they typically have healthier digestive systems than older dogs. The older the dog, the longer you should take to transition to the new raw diet.
To start, we recommend fasting your dog for a half day to a full day prior to the first meal to ensure a good appetite, and then feed a little bit to see how he or she handles the fresh food. If all is well, continue replacing a little bit of the original diet with the new raw diet.
Monitor your pet. If your pet experiences loose stools, wait until the stool is firm to continue the transition.