The B.A.R.F. Raw Dog Food Diet

It’s a lot more pleasant than it sounds. B.A.R.F. stands for either Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or Bones And Raw Food. The first of those two is the more appropriate definition, because there’s more involved than just beef and bones.

Why Choose a B.A.R.F. Raw Dog Food Diet?

There are major nutritional disadvantages involved in feeding your dog kibble:

  • More than half of the food is just filler with little-or-no nutritional value.
  • The cooking process kills most of the nutrients before the food even goes in the bag.
  • Some of the filler and preservatives cause allergies and health problems.
  • The quality control in dog food factories tends to waver between “ok” and “bad.”


On the flip side, there are definite health advantages to a B.A.R.F. diet:

  • Fewer bathroom trips and firmer stools.
  • Better for your dog’s teeth, especially when raw bones are involved.
  • Less waste in the food means your dog will smell better.
  • Lower risk of dog food allergies.
  • Tends to result in a longer life-span.
  • Chewing the B.A.R.F. diet will develop muscle tone.
  • More nutritional value reduces the risk of obesity from over-eating.
  • Healthier skin and coat, which resists infections.
  • More nutrition means better growth and development.

Why Do Some People Object to B.A.R.F. Diets?

I don’t know, maybe it’s the name? Okay, okay, seriously. Here are some of the concerns that some dog lovers have about the B.A.R.F. raw dog food diet, and responses or solutions to those issues:

  • PROBLEM: Raw chicken meat is a breeding ground for bacteria.
    SOLUTION: Follow the same food safety steps you would with the rest of your family. Prepare food on a sanitized surface using clean utensils, keep the food frozen until it needs to be thawed, etc.
  • PROBLEM: Raw food can carry parasites.
    SOLUTION: Buy your dog’s B.A.R.F. diet ingredients from reputable sources.
  • PROBLEM: Eating bones can damage a dog’s throat, stomach and intestines.
    SOLUTION: Never cook bones before feeding them to dogs – cooking bones will make them brittle, and then they can splinter and puncture your dog’s innards. If you’re still concerned, just grind up the bones.
  • PROBLEM: A raw meat diet makes dogs aggressive.
    SOLUTION: No, it really doesn’t. There’s really nothing else I can say – this is a myth.
  • PROBLEM: The average dog owner is not qualified to make dog nutrition decisions.
    SOLUTION: This is absolutely correct. Don’t just start buying food, throwing it in a blender, and giving it to your dog at random. Buy pre-packaged B.A.R.F. diet kits, or do plenty of research before making the switch.
  • PROBLEM: This is a radical change in my dog’s diet, and radical diet changes cause problems.
    SOLUTION: Make the change gradually, and carefully monitor your dog’s physical and behavioral reactions. If you have any questions or doubts, speak to your veterinarian.Also, make sure you don’t make your dog’s meals very complex, especially early on during the switch to a B.A.R.F. raw dog food diet. This way, you can find out which foods might not agree with your dog, one at a time. If your dog starts having diarrhea, begins vomiting, or experiences constipation, either a new ingredient is not agreeing with your dog, you’ve switched him too fast, or something else is wrong such as spoiled or contaminated ingredients.

Once you and your dog are adjusted to the B.A.R.F. raw dog food diet, you’ll find it’s an easy habit to maintain. The biggest and most important risk is to make sure you are feeding the right variety of nutrients in the right portions. Speak to your veterinarian before you make the switch, and then do your homework.

How Expensive Is a B.A.R.F. Raw Dog Food Diet?

This depends completely on where you live, and how much consumer research you do before you start. There are B.A.R.F. buyers co-ops who negotiate and combine their resources to get bulk deals. There are butchers and farmers’ markets that might cut you a deal.

If you’re a smart shopper, you won’t pay much more for the B.A.R.F. diet, than you did for a bagged dog food diet.

How Much Time Will I Spend Preparing B.A.R.F. Dog Food?

There’s no getting around this question: It does take more time, especially at the beginning. Once you’re in the routine, though, it’s not a big deal – you’ll get good at preparing the meals quickly without sacrificing quality or food safety.

One way that easily saves you time is to prepare a week’s worth of food at once, and freeze individual portions. The work of getting out all the cutlery, sanitizing the washing board, and then cleaning up afterwards is easily half the time you’ll spend, so if you make an entire week’s worth of meals at once, you’ll be trimming out more than half the total time spent.

How Much B.A.R.F. Food Should a Dog Eat?

The safest rule of thumb is … ask your veterinarian. The general guideline is one pound of B.A.R.F. raw dog food, per fifty pounds of dog. If it seems like your dog needs more food after you’ve followed that guideline, you can increase the portions gradually.

Puppies, and dogs who are pregnant or nursing, have very different dietary needs than other dogs. Once again, in those cases, you veterinarian needs to be involved in your dog’s B.A.R.F. raw food diet.

What Ingredients Go Into a B.A.R.F. Raw Dog Food Diet?

In order to make sure your dog is getting all the proper nutrients, the B.A.R.F. diet includes a lot of different ingredients. The leading literature on this topic says that between 60-80% of a dog’s diet should be raw meaty bones, and 20-40% should be a mixture of vegetables, meat and offal, and eggs.

Dairy is sometimes okay, but some dogs are allergic to it. Grains were recently revised out of this diet as being worthless for a dog’s nutrition and a large source of dog food allergies.

There is a correct ratio of meat-to-bone that should be observed in the raw meaty bones portion of the diet; this is so important to the B.A.R.F. raw food diet, that the ingredient is abbreviated as RMB. Chicken wings, backs and necks all have the right ratio. So do pork necks, turkey necks, whole fish, most parts of a lamb, ox tails, pigs’ feet, and chickens’ feet.

Here’s a breakdown of how often each kind of meat should be fed as part of a B.A.R.F. raw dog food diet:

Feed your dog these ingredients any time: Beef, buffalo, chicken, fish, goat, lamb, pork or turkey.

Feed these to your dog rarely: Bear, moose, rabbit, and tuna. Be careful with these ingredients!

For good dog dental care, throw in the following ingredients as often as you like:

  • Beef neck bones
  • Chicken necks, wings and backs
  • Turkey necks and wings
  • Ox tails
  • Pigs’ feet and pigs’ necks

Some other foods high in protein that go well with a B.A.R.F. raw dog food diet:

  • Offal (organs such as heart, kidney, liver and tongue)
  • Eggs (including the shell)
  • Cottage cheese

When it comes to vegetables, there are two key things: Variety, and the puree setting on your blender. Dogs don’t break down the cell walls of veggies very well, so you have to open them up in advance to release the nutrients.

These fresh vegetables can be fed to dogs regularly as part of a B.A.R.F. raw dog food diet: Alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, beets, bok choy, celery, carrots, dandelions, green beans, green squash, jicama, kale, mustard greens, parsnip, parsley, pumpkin, red peppers, romaine lettuce, turnips, yams, yellow peppers, yellow squash, and zucchini.

These vegetables can be fed occasionally, and carefully: Avocado fruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, eggplants, green peppers, potatoes, rhubarb, spinach, tomatoes.

As a rare supplement, a clove of garlic or some cilantro are good nutritional aids.

Fruits in the B.A.R.F Raw Dog Food Diet

Either as a separate snack, or blended in with vegetables, you can add the following fruits to your dog’s diet at any time: apples, bananas, cherries, oranges, and pineapples.

Still More B.A.R.F. Raw Dog Food Diet Supplements!

Still other things you can add to a dog’s raw food diet that will improve his health:

  • Fish oils and olive oils are extremely good for a dog.
  • While transitioning away from dog food, consider acidophilus for easing the stomach.
  • There are multi-vitamins available for dogs, and I definitely recommend that for any diet.

Foods to Never Feed Your Dog

The following items are poisonous to dogs, or at the very least will cause some kind of trouble.

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee or anything containing caffeine
  • Fruit pits and seeds
  • Leaves and stems from tomatoes and potatoes
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onion
  • Salt
  • Yeast

How to Transition To the B.A.R.F. Raw Dog Food Diet

A few dogs will be fine if you simply switch their diet all at once. This isn’t recommended for most dogs, but if you know from past experience that this will work, feel free to try it.

Most dogs, however, will get a belly ache, and might have digestive trouble, if their diet is changed too fast. Symptoms will include stomach pain and low energy, diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation. If you have any doubts, do the switch gradually so that your dog doesn’t associate the new food with feeling sick.

Add new ingredients one at a time, adding a new ingredient once every one or two weeks. This gives your dog time to react badly, if he’s going to. That way you know not to use that ingredient again. This goes for all ingredients, including new veggies, new meats, and other supplements like oils or herbs.

If you’re feeding your dog raw meaty bones as part of the B.A.R.F. raw dog food diet, then make sure you’re able to supervise his feeding time. Dogs who have never eaten bones before might not know how to do it.

Step-by-Step Transition to the B.A.R.F. Raw Dog Food Diet

  1. Let your dog fast for up to a day, so that he’s had a chance to digest and expel his old diet.
  2. Start with raw chicken necks or chicken wings as the first meal of the day, and then raw beef for the second meal. Always serve minced or ground meat for the evening meal.
  3. You can add a small portion of non-dairy plain yogurt to help your dog digest the food.
  4. Continue this for about two weeks, to make sure your dog has no problems with the new diet.
  5. After two weeks, try a change in the meats; for example, switch chicken wings to chicken necks. You can also introduce vegetables at this point, just stick to the list of approved veggies further up on this page. Start small on the veggie portions – 4 tablespoons or less, always pureed. Continue using yogurt to assist digestion, and add a 1,000 mg fish oil capsule.
  6. At three or four weeks into the switch, it’s time to give your dog big beefy knuckle bones or shanks of lamb or goat during the day. Continue with the rest of the diet as described above.
  7. Also around this time, make sure that you’re adding vitamin supplements. Don’t start right away with a full multi-vitamin. Crush half a Vitamin C tablet and half a Vitamin E tablet, and sprinkle them on your dog’s meal once a day. Make sure your veterinarian approves of the dosage!
  8. After about another week, assuming there’s been no problem, you can now start using a whole Vitamin C tablet and a whole Vitamin E tablet. Make sure your veterinarian approves of the dosage!
  9. At this point, nearly two months into the B.A.R.F. raw dog food diet, you’re ready to switch to a doggie multi-vitamin if there’s been no problem, and if your vet approves. You’re also ready to start introducing new ingredients, but don’t make the meals too complex – stick to one or two ingredients per meal, while also making sure there’s variety throughout the days and weeks.

A good rotation that gives your dog the right variety of nutrients, is to feed raw meaty bones twice per day for two days, then a single day that starts with a fruit meal and ends with a ground meat meal. Then back to the raw meaty bones. The raw meaty bone days should also include some vegetables.

Great Recipes for the B.A.R.F. Raw Dog Food Diet!

If you’re looking for examples of dog food recipes, I’ve written a page with several dog food recipes you might like. A few of them are cooked, and a few are raw – but they’re all delicious and nutritional! Check ’em out: Homemade Dog Food Recipes.

For much more detail including lots of recipes and a complete feeding schedule, here’s the system that I learned from: the B.A.R.F. Feeding Resource.

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