Thursday, June 23, 2016

Is a Raw Food Diet Right For Your Dog?

This is the first of a two-part series

What Exactly is a BARF Diet?
The BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food' or 'Bones And Raw Food') is thought to be close to what your dog would eat in the wild.  It's based around fresh-killed beef, chicken, rabbit, duck, fish, organ meat, etc.  Raw pork is not recommended because it can contain the virus which causes a life-threatening disease called 'pseudorabies'.  Any meat used in a raw food diet for dogs should be human-grade, preferably organic, and free from any artificial additives, preservatives, etc.

Whole eggs (including the shells), yogurt, cottage cheese and even some nuts can be given; plus a healthy serving of finely ground or juiced raw fresh fruit and vegetables. Grains aren't necessary, but if you want to add some type of grain, try oats or brown rice.

The Benefits of Raw Dog Food
There certainly seem to be many good reasons to consider a raw diet for dogs - and although the majority of them are to the dogs' benefit, there are some 'pluses' for you too!
Some of the most common benefits include:

  • A raw food diet for dogs may help to alleviate all sorts of health problems including allergies, IBS, arthritis, skin conditions, parasites, ear infections, obesity and more
  • It strengthens a dog's immune function, lessening the possibility of over-vaccination and other immunity system issues
  • Chewing bones keeps your dogs teeth clean and strong 
  • It's an "evolutionary appropriate" diet, meaning the canine digestive system was specifically designed for this type of diet.  It stands to reason that BARF provides  maximum nutritional benefit 
  • Stools that are less frequent and less smelly  
  • Reduced obesity, and more controlled growth rate in puppies/adolescent dogs
  • Studies have indicated that this type of diet actually increases a dog's lifespan
  • If you live near a cooperative butcher or market, BARF may be less expensive than commercial food
  • Your dog likes it!

Drawbacks of a Raw Food Diet for Dogs
Of course there are two sides to every coin, and there are drawbacks associated with feeding a raw dog food diet.
Some of the more common ones include: 

  • There is a risk of bacterial illness such as e-coli and salmonella, that could affect you and/or your dog.   Obviously, it's important to follow good kitchen hygiene and wash your hands, utensils and work surfaces thoroughly
  • Preparing a raw dog food recipe for dogs can be messy, time-consuming and inconvenient if you're traveling, or have a busy schedule 
  • It can be difficult to find the right raw meat components.  If you have a local butcher, chicken processing plant, or grocery store that will work with you to provide bones, carcasses and such--it will be much easier.
  • There's a learning curve involved--for the dog owner that is!
  • Many veterinarians in the US tend to discourage the raw diet

Bear in mind that puppies have very specific nutritional needs. Raw diets are fine for an adult dog; it is usually not recommended for the first year because it is tricky to meet puppy demands.  Start with premium commercial and make the switch at maturity.

Speak with your vet if you have any questions about your puppy's, or dog's, diet.

Next month:  Part II--Tips on Feeding Your Dog a Raw Diet

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