What is a BARF Diet?


    As a dedicated dog owner, you just want to give your four-legged friend the best – and that’s something we completely understand. But with so many dog food options around, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to decide which one would be good for your pet. 

    Some diet plans can get very complicated, so there’s an increasing demand for simple yet nutritious food that meets all your dog’s needs – and that’s where the BARF diet comes in. 

    Here’s a look at this popular feeding plan in more detail, with everything that your canine would want you to know.

    What is a BARF Diet For Dogs?

    The BARF Diet for Dogs is based on raw ingredients and natural ingredients and has its roots further back than many realise. In the 1930s, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, a veterinary student started to research alternatives to conventional care for dogs. With a particular interest in herbalism she travelled around the world to find out more about how some cultures treated illness in humans and animals using natural ingredients. 

    Although this wasn’t solely about diet, Juliette de Bairacli Levy discovered that dogs who ate a natural diet tended to be the healthiest. Her series of books on animal care and wellbeing is still considered to be groundbreaking. This included her persuasive arguments about eating a natural diet which for some time were influential enough to curtail the growth of commercial pet food. 

    However, the development of convenience food in humans found its way into the pet world and over the following decades almost every dog owner had switched to dry or canned food. This was a u-turn on what Juliette de Bairacli Levy had been touting but in the 1980s, her theories rose their head once more. 

    This time it was an Australian nutritionist and vet called Dr Ian Billinghurst who published a best-selling book in 1993 called Give Your Dog a Bone. This was based on the same theories as Juliette de Bairacli Levy had been talking about many years before. Although there were others saying similar, Dr Billinghurst is largely credited with the BARF diet and the rise of the natural, raw food approach. 

    What Does BARF Stand For?

    Let’s cut to the chase and address the thing everyone is thinking about here: BARF is an unfortunate acronym. But in this case, BARF has nothing to do with vomiting, and everything to do with eating a raw and unprocessed diet.

    BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or, Bones And Raw Food. Both of these explain very succinctly what the BARF diet is all about. 

    The BARF dog diet is all about giving your canine raw food, because that would have been what they originally ate in the wild. Although dogs have undergone some evolutionary changes since their wolf days, they still retain many of the features of their ancestors. 

    Dogs, just like wolves, have a short intestinal tract which is perfectly designed for processing raw meat. Their teeth are also ideally suited for this purpose, with powerful jaws that are capable of ripping and tearing flesh.

    The movement of a dog’s jaws is only vertical; they don’t have any side-to-side motion that omnivores are capable of. This shows that raw meat is the most natural food for dogs to eat, and it’s what’s at the core of the BARF diet. 

    How Do You Do the BARF Diet?

    So, now that you know the BARF dog diet is all about feeding your pooch raw meat, how do you go about it? It’s not as simple as filling their bowl with raw cuts of meat; canine nutrition is more complicated and requires a proper balance. 

    The BARF diet shares many similarities with the prey model diet, another type of raw food diet which is high in protein. There are a few differences between the two diets, even though both are based on the concept of what wild dogs would eat. 

    Both BARF and the prey food diet require high-quality muscle meat, but the latter is more about feeding your canine entire prey animals, including fur and feather. BARF opts for a more balanced approach and includes a small amount of fruit and vegetables. 

    80/10/10 Ration for Raw Diet

    It’s possible to tweak the BARF diet to suit the digestion of your own dog, but very broadly it can be split down into proportions of 80%/10%/10%.

    This is divided as follows:

    • 70% muscle meat
    • 10% soft bone
    • 5% liver
    • 5% other secreting organs
    • 7% vegetables
    • 2% nuts and seeds
    • 1% fruit

    By combining the natural diet of a carnivore with a small amount of supplementary vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts, your dog will receive well-balanced nutrition that helps to promote good health.

    How to Prepare a BARF Diet for Dogs?

    As all responsible dog owners will know, you can’t suddenly make radical changes to your pet’s food without causing digestive problems. A BARF diet is probably very different to what your furry friend is used to eating, so you’ll need to introduce the change carefully. 

    Start to introduce the raw food as part of your dog’s overall diet, while simultaneously reducing their regular food. This should be done slowly so your dog has the chance to adjust to the new diet, and you can monitor the effect on their weight and overall well-being. 

    It’s generally recommended to feed dogs whole cuts of meat that they are able to tear and rip apart. The exception is for smaller dogs which may need the meat to be cut up into smaller chunks. 

    What Do You Feed a Dog on BARF?

    There are lots of homemade raw diets but switching to BARF doesn’t mean that you have to do everything yourself. There are many commercial BARF diet plans available, providing you with the ingredients to feed your dog a raw and unprocessed diet, without spending hours figuring out how to balance the needs of canine nutrition. 

    You can opt for a fully inclusive BARF commercial food which includes all the veggies, fruits, seeds and nuts, as well as the meat, bone and organs. If you prefer to have more control over what your dog eats, there is also the option to buy frozen unprocessed meat, bones and organs which you can supplement with the other ingredients. 

    If you don’t want to use commercial pet food, it’s entirely possible to put together a raw food diet yourself. However, a BARF diet isn’t fit for human consumption as the needs of a dog are very different. It’s a good idea to enlist the help of a canine nutrition expert at the start to make sure the ingredients provide everything your dog needs for good health.

    How Much Do You Feed a Dog on a BARF Diet?

    There is no single fixed amount to feed a dog on a BARF diet because a lot depends on the individual factors. This includes the activity levels of the dog and their weight; a working gun dog will need much more than a canine who lazes around for most of the day!

    The age of the dog, and their neutered status are also relevant. Spayed or neutered dogs tend to hold on to fat more readily, so it might be preferable to move to the lower end of the recommended feeding range for your dog’s weight. 

    How to Calculate BARF Diet for Dogs?

    For an adult dog on a BARF diet, the food should make up roughly 2-3% of their weight. This should be fed across two meals; one in the morning and one at night. 

    You should monitor their weight as they switch to a BARF diet to see if you need to increase or decrease the amount you’re feeding. Keep an eye on their poop too as you might need to alter some of the quantities, particularly if they’re sensitive to organ meats. 

    Working dogs should have more, typically 3-6%. Spayed and neutered dogs will probably be better with quantities of 2%, but much depends on their activity levels. 

    These portions relate to the daily weight of the food, not per meal. If you’re only feeding your dog once a day, they can have the entire amount in a single sitting otherwise split the allowance between the two meals. 

    The BARF dog diet is popular, however, for some dog owners, and for numerous reasons, they don’t feel comfortable with feeding this diet, reasons include time, finances, storage and a lack of confidence in ensuring they are giving the correct nutritional values to their canine friends, in this case, many chose a complete raw dog diet which removes many of these fear factors.