|BARF (Bones and Raw Food) Diet
Firstly I would like to say that I do not consider myself an expert on this subject and what I intend to tell you is how I feed my dogs and the benefits I have gained from doing so. I can only stress that if anyone is interested in feeding their dogs this way, that they get the two books written by Dr Ian Billinghurst called "Give Your Dog a Bone" and "Grow Your Pups with Bones" and read them. I still regularly read parts of both books just to ensure that I'm feeding, as I should, they were also invaluable when raising puppies. There are also a number of email lists and websites available, to access them click on the BARF link below.
I started on BARF for two reasons firstly because I was concerned at the young age my dogs were losing teeth or they required Veterinary attention, and secondly was the death of our beautiful German Shepherd, Zarra, due to anal cancer. When Zarra was sick I consulted Sandra Urwin an animal natural therapist from Tauranga NZ, as what our Vet was prescribing was no longer helping her. Sandra tried to convince me at that time not to feed her, or any of my dogs the expensive premium food I was then feeding and switch to a raw meat and vegetable diet. I did not listen and although through the remedies she supplied for Zarra she gained an extra 8 months of good quality life, we ultimately had to have her put to sleep in December 1998. In February 1999 I made the switch to BARF and have been feeding it ever since.
The diet is based around what and how the dogs would eat if they were in the wild, the books also go into great detail on why we should not feed the modern processed dog foods such as kibble etc. What I have found since converting, is that my dogs no longer have smelly breath, their teeth and gums are clean and healthy, and they are also in much better general health. Their faeces are very small, hard and turn chalky almost as soon as they are passed. In fact our new GSD faeces are now about the size of a Cavalier's that is fed kibble. My Cavalier, Charlie, who used to regularly suffer from gastric upsets & Colitis and pass bloody diarrhoea has not had one bout since being on BARF.
There are some drawbacks I will mention now and to me this will weed out those that are genuinely interested in their dog's health. Firstly they may drop coat, in almost all cases the dogs go through a detoxification process and this may display itself by the dropping of coat but the plus is, that the new coat they get, in my experience, is a much better coat both in quality and quantity. The second is that from people I know who have tried it, the mixing of BARF with processed foods can in fact lead to upset stomachs and the real benefits are lost. Thirdly, it is definitely more work than simply opening a bag of kibble and you need to be better organised.
The basis for the diet is that you feed 60-80% raw meaty bones (RMB's), these bones must be able to be eaten and digested by the dog so in my case they are fed chicken carcasses. These I purchase from a chicken-processing factory for 20c each. The carcass is what is left after the chicken has had the meat removed, for human consumption. To give an idea on amounts my dogs receive ½ a carcass once a day, occasionally the boys get a whole one, please note that I only feed my dogs once a day. I feed these for six to eight meals out of ten. The remainder of their meals are comprised of a vegetable, offal and minced meat mixture which is detailed below (patty mixture), this is the part that requires some work and organisation. Dr B's books fully explains the rationale but briefly if in the wild a dog kills something the contents of the stomach and then the organs, such as the kidney and liver are the first things a dog will eat, this is the reason for their inclusion in the diet.
First you need to prepare the raw fruit and vegetables. These can be anything that's a bit old in your fridge however if you have a number of dogs you will probably have to buy some in. They do not have to be top quality and you may be able to get a good deal from a supermarket or fruit & vegetable shop. You then need to pulverise them I personally grate all the hard vegetables, like carrots with my whizz first and then put the blade in and process them again. To help turn it to mush I add an egg (shell included), if more liquid is required add a small amount of water. Some people use a juicer and then add the juice back into the pulp. The important things are that it is completely broken down (it should resemble a puree) and that you have used a variety of fruit and vegetables. I prefer to make a large batch and freeze into meal size portions, as it can be a rather messy job.
At feeding time I add minced liver and kidney and minced chicken carcasses to bind it all together. I currently mince my own chicken from the carcasses. At these meals I also give the dogs Vitamin C, E & B, Garlic oil tablets, Kelp tablets or powder, cod liver oil, olive oil and fish body oil tabs.
I also give beef soup bones about once a fortnight as a recreational bone. The dogs all love them and will chew them for hours. They also help keep their teeth clean.
As I have recommended that you read the books and they will inform you of the need for the supplements I'm not going to go into that area. However it has a lot to do with the depletion of our soils etc and vitamins & minerals are no longer supplied to the extent required, especially for brood bitches and stud dogs.
I have raised litters on BARF and it is a huge success, the bitches have no calcium supplementation and feed the puppies until they were 7-8 weeks old. The litters are a joy to have, I start weaning them with chicken necks and then I add minced RMBs, which slowly have veges added to it. When they began gulping down the necks I switch them to pieces of carcass instead. What I can say is, the puppy pen is much nicer to clean out with BARF fed puppies, there is less smell, and they also pass small chalky poops.
As I said I don't claim to be an expert however through trial and error I am now very happy with how I feed the dogs. I would be happy to assist anyone that decides to give it a go, please feel free to contact me.
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