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Raw Food for Dogs and Cats: The BARF Diet


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Raw food for dogs and cats is often referred to as the BARF Diet.

No, that is not a spelling mistake, but rather an acronym for 'Biologically Appropriate Raw Food'.

The BARF Diet is not new, it is actually the original diet that our beloved pets grew and thrived on for hundreds and even thousands of years before the kibble companies came on to the scene.

Ask yourself: If I did not have a bag of dry food kibble, what would I feed my dog and cat?

Table scraps of course. Or I'd let him/her catch his own meal like they did when I was young and living on a farm.

What exactly is the Raw Food for Dogs and Cats Diet?

BARF Diet for Dogs and Cats is one consistent with the biological evolution of the animal. That means it is species specific and for dogs and cats this means a primarily carnivorous diet.

The biggest challenge with kibble, even a good quality one, is that it no longer contains any raw animal proteins.

If you read the page on Organic Raw Food, you will understand that cooking (and processing) renders the food biologically in-active. Heat denatures all protein, inactivates vital digestive enzymes and destroys most vitamins and minerals.

The other big challenge with kibble is that it contains too many grains (wheat, corn, soy, rye, barley, etc) that are not digestible by dogs and cats.

Did you ever wonder why the obesity rate for dogs and cats is rising so dramatically? In my opinion, the grains or carbohydrates in kibble is altering their metabolism such that they are becoming obese at alarming rates (even in pets that get appropriate amounts of exercise).

According to the fifth annual veterinary survey, 53 percent of dogs and 55 percent of cats to be classified as overweight or obese. That amounts to a staggering 88.4 million pets that are chronically SICK!

Both dogs and cats are carnivores, however cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must eat meat to sustain life. Dogs on the other hand are scavenging carnivores and as such can survive if necessary on plant material alone. To thrive however, they do need meat, and lots of it.

The high grain content, combined with low protein and bone of kibble will allow our pets to stay alive, but not to thrive.

Basic Components of the Raw Food for Dogs and Cats Diet:

Just like the basic structure of a human diet is 65% carbohydrate, 20% protein and 15% fat, so too is there a structure of feeding for a dog and cat.

The important components of a BARF Diet are the following, in order of importance and quantity:

  1. Raw Meat: this includes all protein sources of beef, fish, poultry, lamb, rabbit and game, as well as organ meat. But as in any animal carcass that the dog/cat would eat in the wild, there should be a higher percentage of muscle meat to organ. Eggs can also be fed either raw or cooked and would be included in the raw meat/protein category.

  2. Raw Bones: Consider how much of a prey animal's body consists of raw bone, and feed accordingly. Be sure to make sure the bone is RAW, as feeding cooked bone is dangerous, causing splinting and challenges in digesting. Raw chicken necks, backs or turkey necks are appropriate and provide good amounts of cartilage necessary as a source of glucosamine for healthy joints.

  3. Raw Vegetables: include 1-2 tablespoons each day of a puree of multiple veggies in order to provide a good base of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Be sure to keep this to a minimum or it will upset the acid base balance of your pet's system.

  4. Extra Supplements: Including items such as salmon oil, kelp powder, garlic, apple cider vinegar, alfalfa, vitamin C, etc

In the case of cats, follow the above food pyramid, but eliminate the veggies.

As another word on veggies, in case you have any ideas of making your pet a vegan, plant matter needs more time in the GI tract to break down. Dogs and cats have a very short digestive system lacking key enzymes for carbs and that is why whole vegetables will come out just as they did going in!

Isn't Feeding Raw Expensive?

One of the biggest comments and concerns about feeding raw food for dogs and cats is the price.

And, yes, you are right, it is more expensive to feed raw as compared to kibble - that is there is an up front cost.

However, I want to clearly distinguish the up front cost from the long-term cost. And in my opinion, you will save thousands of dollars in the long run on vet bills, because feeding your pet a species appropriate BARF diet will maintain and sustain your pet's health.

Although most traditional vets will not agree, I do not know of a holistic vet out there who would argue against a BARF diet. Remember that most vets, like most medical doctors, are in the business of sick-care rather than well-care and they don't make a penny off of keeping your pet well. In addition, they are pressured and even rewarded by drug and food companies to 'sell' and 'market' certain items, irrespective of the well-being of the animal.

And just so I am clear, you may have found a wonderful vet that is very open to alternative healing – great. I'm just saying question everything a vet tells you, as well as what I tell you. It is your choice, so do the research and see what makes the most sense!

Other Questions about the Raw Food for Dogs and Cats Diet:

As an animal healer, I find this topic extremely important, as most veterinarians do not understand what constitutes good nutrition, and consequently most pet owners have never even thought to inquire into their pet's dietary needs.

Nutrition is the cornerstone of health, vitality and longevity. Because of this, I wanted to interview a long time breeder and raw food for dogs and cats expert, as well as a holistic veterinarian (who just happens to be this breeder's daughter) on a radio show that I was hosting for a short time.

Some of the common questions we cover on the interview are:

  1. What about the concern of bacteria when feeding raw?

  2. I'm a vegetarian, how could I possibly feed raw?

  3. How do I feed raw when I am travelling?

  4. Are there any commercial dog foods that you would recommend?

  5. Will my pet's health conditions (hip dysplasia, allergies, skin and fur conditions, teeth/dental/bad breath, cancer, autoimmune diseases, weight gain, etc.) be affected?

  6. How do I know each meal is balanced?

These questions as well as most other common questions will be answered in this one-hour BARF interview: Raw Food for your Dogs and Cats , so I encourage you to take the time to listen. Just turn it on while you are folding laundry or preparing dinner.

And if you are further inclined, I also have an interview from a prominent holistic vet called The New Holistic Way for Dogs and Cats , which is a nice compliment to further understanding natural healing alternatives for your furry companions.

Final Remarks on Raw Food for Dogs and Cats:

As a word of advice, if you can't handle feeding your carnivorous dog and cat raw food, then you better consider getting a goat instead!

To leave you with a quote from one of my favourite leaders, Gandhi:

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Yours in Wellness,

Dr. Lisa

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