BARF/Raw Food diet

naturegurlDecember 19, 2009

I thought I posted this yesterday but it's not showing up, so if it does at some point I apologize for being redundant....

I was wondering if anyone out there feeds their dogs the BARF or raw food diet? I've been strongly considering it and have done some research on the internet, but of course you can't always believe everything you read there, and I've trusted this forum for years.

I have reserved Dr. Ian Billinghurst's book (the "founder" of the BARF diet) from my local library and am waiting for it to arrive but I would love to hear from anyone who has experience with this.

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There is really nothing wrong with it, except that people go a bit overboard.

In the wild, canida eat whatever they can kill/find. That ofdten means a coyote or wild dog will eat a mouse/rat/squirrel/rabbit completely.

Many people are rabid about their ideas---and allow NO intestines/etc in their formula. Now, there is a very successful BARF manufacturer in Californioa that uses only cow stomachs as the ingredient for their product. All four chambers plus whatever is contained in those stomachs.

I've used Pedigree for years and had dogs who lived for 15 to 20 years---with an average of 2 trips to a vet yearly. Now I have a dog that has digestive problems and cannot have beef. So, I use chicken/lamb and rice dry/canned for her. A BARF diet for her would not only be prohibitively expensive, it would require having a second freezer to store food.

The problem with dogs and digestive trouble is one caused by breeding as a rule. That can complicate BARF feeding or make it a necessity, depending on the dog.

The only other problem with BARF, in my opinion, is that a consistant diet of the same thing can be deficient in certain vitamins. Only meat, with no bones/organs cannot supply a balanced diet.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 11:49PM
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BARF is not only meat. It's "Bones and Raw Food". I've been feeding BARF for over 10 years. It was daunting and kind of scary at first - I was afraid I was going to kill my dogs with the bones :) I feed mine raw chicken necks, which I get in 40# cases, and raw hamburger mixed with liver/gizzards. They also get a raw egg a few times a week, and some canned mackerel once or twice a week. Green Tripe is also excellent, although it can *really* stink. I feed table scraps, and commercial treats too. Many will feed *nothing* commercial, but I don't have a problem with it. The treats make up a tiny part of their diet. I used to feed veggies too, but the knowledge today is that wild canids do not generally eat the stomach contents. You don't have to exclude veggies, most dogs like them, they're just not critical to the food.

When I switched my dogs to raw, they LOVED it, and would wiggle and dance when I was preparing their bowls, something they'd never done. I switched because one of my dogs had allergies, and was on steroids 9 months of the year. (She had inhalant allergies, so only got relief in the winter.) She was cured of that within a month of starting BARF. As a bonus, my other dog had some digestive issues which included the MOST horrendous gas ever emitted. That cleared up too, much to my relief :)

Regarding storage, I had an extra fridge in the basement, so I used that freezer for their food. When I moved, I didn't have room for two fridges, (no basement in the new house), so I bought a small upright freezer and put it in the laundry room.

Billinghurst's book is a good intro, but be forewarned - it's very poorly written. He's a great vet, but not a good writer :) I would also recommend Dr. Pitcairn's book, as well as Kymythy Schutlze's. Schultze can be a little anal about some things, but it's still a great resource.

I'd highly recommend joining one of the many BARF groups on the web. They can really help with questions/concerns about the diet. Just remember that it's "a balanced diet over time", meaning as long as they get the proper ratio of meat to bone overall and are getting organ meat, they'll do well.

I also recommend getting a full blood panel on your dog after 6 months on BARF, then annually after that. The first one to see if there are any abnormalities that would require adjusting what you're feeding, the annual ones just as good practice. No matter what is being fed, raw or commercial, a full blood panel including thyroid function can alert you to developing diseases.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 9:20AM
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I fed my dogs (5 large breed) raw homemade for a while, but it got too expensive and time-consuming. It wasn't technically BARF, but based on Dr. Pitcairn's recipe. My Ana wasn't a huge fan, but she's our weird picky dog who looks at canned food like we are trying to poison her. Max kept eating the bones whole, not crunching them up, so at about 3am he'd throw up whole chicken legs/necks/whatever I had fed him. That got old too.

I think it is the optimal way to feed pets if it is done correctly.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 10:59AM
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What dog wouldn't love that type of variety??? That said, who has the time or money to feed that type of diet to a dog? Well, obviously, many of you do ---- I don't. Good kibble is good enough and when I have extra meat and veggies, our sweetie gets a treat. We give it long after we have eaten and it just appears in her bowl. That way, there is no begging at the table.

When we were raising a family with lots of kids, I always gave my dogs plenty of table scraps that were low-salt and free of preservatives. Never had a fat dog and they all lived long healthy lives.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 12:21PM
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It's not expensive or time consuming for me. I buy chicken necks in bulk for 25 - 30 cents per pound, and stock up on 99 cent hamburger when it's on sale. I buy other things if I get a good deal. Prep takes about an hour or two once a month, then I just pull stuff out of the freezer as needed.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 1:03PM
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Here are some links for you:


Raw Learning

And I forgot about Tom Lonsdale

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 1:36PM
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I fed my dogs via the Pitchairn's diet for several years and then switched to raw feeding and have been for 5 years. If you want to learn more about raw feeding, there is a raw feeding yahoo group where I went when I started and it was very helpful and informative. My girls have thrived on the raw diet! ~LBF

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 6:33PM
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Wow, Weed30 thank you for all that information! That really is very helpful. I did find some of the same web resources so I'm glad to have confirmation that they are somewhat reputable in the info that they offer. The suggestion to get a blood panel in 6 months is an excellent idea, one I never would have thought of - thank you for suggesting it. I go to a small vet practice nearby, where one of the 2 vets is a holistic practitioner, who first suggested the raw diet to me, when I adopted Tucker 2 years ago, so I'll be sure to call him and let him know what's going on.

Ladybugfruit, would you mind e-mailing me the yahoo group that you are referring to? (

As far as cost, I think that it will actually cost less to follow a raw diet. I have been feeding Tucker high quality food from a holistic pet store. Even his treats contain only freeze dried muscle, organ, & bone meal. a $30 bag of food lasts less than a month. Today when I went grocery shopping I spent around $60, which included the usual food for me & DH as well as chicken legs, turkey necks, beef marrow bones, ground beef, ground pork for Tucker. The veggies I bought include veggies we eat anyway. When I came home, I made a mixture of ground meat, ground veggies, yogurt, honey and olive oil. I gave Tucker a test dollop which he loved. So I packaged up the rest in individual bags and froze them. So for about $25 and 2 hours of labor I have a month's worth of wholesome, natural food. I started giving him the chicken legs pieces this weekend, which he loves, bones and all. And the beef marrow bone just sent him over the moon!

I have a Sam's Club membership so I'll have to check there for better discounts on meat. We also have a few decent butchers within a 20 or so mile drive, so I will check with them for organ meats.

Thanks agagin, for all the great tips and suggestions, we really appreciate it! I'll be sure to get Pitchairn's book as well.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 8:44PM
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Don't be afraid to contact wholesalers in your area - I called every one in the phone book and found two willing to sell to me. As mentioned, my necks come in a 40# case. When I get them home, I put them in gallon ziplock bags and freeze. The day before I need one, I put it in a 9 x 13 aluminum pan. Aluminum thaws things out more quickly than ceramic or other metals. I just leave it on the counter overnight and it's pretty much thawed out by morning. I then put it in the fridge and it keeps fine for a whole week. Another good thing to feed are lamb neck bones. I get them in 1" thick slices and the girls love them.

Be careful with the beef marrow bones. That marrow is extremely rich, and could cause an upset tummy. It happened to me once when the bone I gave had an extra large opening/lots of marrow, which my dog threw up about an hour later. After that happened, I would scoop out some of the marrow if it looked like there was too much. I saved it in a little bag in the freezer and added it to their beef mix.

Another thing is that you do have to keep an eye on your dog at first, to make sure he is eating correctly, ie: not gulping large hunks. One of my dogs was a gulper, and I had to stop giving her turkey necks, because she would try to swallow huge pieces and one got stuck. She was able to hork it back out, but it scared me. She also rarely chewed her chicken necks, just grabbed and swallowed, but they were small enough not to cause a problem.

You are lucky to have a vet that is ok with feeding raw. Some are totally against it, and thus have little to no knowledge about it. Yours can assist you, which is great. The two vets I have had will not recommend it, (liability I suspect), but readily admit that my dogs have done extremely well. One of the vets even asked to borrow my books :)

I'm glad you are going to do the blood panels. They really are helpful. Once I had one come back and one dog's phosphorus to calcium ratio was off a bit, so I adjusted her diet and the subsequent panels were fine. The phosphorus/calcium ratio is the most important thing you have to keep in balance, but it's easy.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 9:42PM
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If you are squeemish about dealing with the raw food yourself, Natural Balance has a raw food line which is excellent.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 10:27PM
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I agree with 'carmen grower'; Dh and I try to give our dog a good quality kibble and she is thriving. We are 'seniors' so have had a few dogs in our lifetime and they have lived long healthy lives without eating raw. I find it very strange that my SIL who fed her two dogs a raw diet; both of them died the same year within months of each other. The one dog died of cancer and the other had some sort of blood disorder. Not saying the raw diet caused these conditions but I don't think it is a perfect diet.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 10:40PM
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If you are interpreting "perfect" = no disease or other problems, then no, raw is not perfect. No diet is, due to genetic and environmental influences, whether you're talking about dogs, cats, gerbils or humans.

I'm not trying to "sell" feeding raw to anyone, but for me, feeding raw just makes sense, and I have had really excellent results with my dogs. On another level, I know how I feel when I am eating well vs. eating not so well, and I can see that my dogs experience the same.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 11:23PM
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I feed the raw diet--prey model to 2 Jack Russell Terriers and a senior Belgian Sheepdog. None of mine have allergy issues, they were switched to raw cause THEY ARE carnivores and it is the BEST we can give them. All three are thriving on it--> they look GREAT, very healthy & have *plenty* of energy. We have a second fridge in the basement--it is a bit smaller than our reg. one, that is where we keep the dogs food(RMB's, organs and ground meat) and our ground meat. I have the meat fridge/freezer at coldest setting.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 10:49AM
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I've done it for 7 years. I feed pretty much what Weed does - raw meaty bones, ground meat, eggs and organ meats with table scraps - cooked vegetables (whatever we're eating).

I scramble the eggs slightly as my dog doesn't like them raw unless they're mixed into ground meat. So when we have eggs, I scramble half an egg for him.

I buy some commercial treats too. I've experimented with home-made treats but the last batch got moldy, so I gave up on those recipes.

I also give marrow bones for gnawing on - about one piece every couple of weeks. Too hard for my dog to eat, so it's for his gnawing pleasure and to help keep teeth clean.

The once-in-a while food he loves the most - if he could do back flips he would - is the bone out of a t-bone steak.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 9:00PM
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The funny thing about my vet - he was reluctant at first to even mention a raw diet. He spent a good long time with me & Tucker when I brought him home from a shelter and we were about 20 minutes onto the visit when we started discussing the pet food recalls which had just occurred at the time. That's when he recommended the holistic pet store in my town - nothing on her shelves has ever been recalled. She also sells the Natural Balance Raw Food line, which I did try but that is definitely pricey. Then, when I asked him what he feeds his own pets, he admitted that he was a cat person and said in a very low voice "but if I had a dog I would feed him raw bones and meat". It was as if he didn't want to be overheard! I guess the rest of the folks that work there don't agree with his philosophy.

The phosphorus to calcium ration makes sense, as that will affect the contractility of the heart. Tucker is due for a physical in March so I'll have the first blood panel done then.

He can be a gulper at times - I've had to reach down his throat to pull out pieces of beef hide dental chews that were too big to swallow - so I'll watch him carefully with the turkey necks. So far he's been doing great with the chicken legs and beef marrow bone. As for the ground meat & veggie patties, they disappear almost as soon as they go in the bowl. He really took to it quite naturally. He's been following me around like crazy since I started doing this and has a new found respect for me I think :) The only thing I don't like, is when I give him a piece of meat, he takes it into the living room to eat it, which means I'm cleaning & disenfecting the carpet daily. The other funny change, is that when he is eating a piece of meat on the bone, he is very protective of it. He will let me or DH take it out of his mouth, but if one of the cats gets too close, he barks and gives them a warning sneer - which is really funny because at baseline he is very submissive, particularly with the cats whe tend to walk all over him - they can even drink right out of his bowl while he's eating kibble!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 10:47PM
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RE: bones on the carpet - invest in a bathroom rug, and train him that it's his place to eat. Put it in the kitchen or where ever you want him to eat. When he starts taking his food elsewhere, just keep gently correcting him and putting it on the rug. If he lays down when he eats, the rug should be large enough for him and the food, yet small enough to fit in your washing machine :)

I have not had this problem, probably because I feed chicken necks, which are small. All four dogs that I have fed raw just ate them out of their bowls.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 7:28AM
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I have a plastic mat that the dog is not allowed to remove his food from.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 2:57PM
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I agree with what I've read so far. Frankly, I don't feed raw because with 3 such large dogs, its cost prohibitive and a big inconvenience. However, I hear a lot of success with it if done correctly.

I recently switched back to California Natural (I'd tried to steer away from it for a long time because of the cost), due to Mocha's allergies. Apparently, it's the only thing I can do short of home-cooking and raw diet that doesn't bring on the multiple hotspots. Since the other 2 dogs are agreeable to it (plus my dad-in-laws 4th dog who lives with us - both of them), it only makes sense.

I do however readily throw them raw meat or bones when I am cooking (which is often). Now and then, I also crack a raw egg over their dry Cali Natural food. Frankly, it might be an old wive's tale, but raw eggs really do seem to promote a very pretty coat.

I have 3 large notorious shedders (aussie, english shepherd, and malinois) and all 3 have beautiful fur (god bless the makers of Oreck).

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 1:27AM
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Now I am vegetarian myself and one of the reasons why I do not eat meat is because animals traditionally stuffed with all kinds of chemicals- growth hormones, various antibiotics, etc for better faster production so lots of health problems is directly related to it. Colon cancer is linked by about 75% to meat eating habits...
now when it comes to my dog, he is a carnivore, his teeth and digestive system structure verify that. He is a pup yet and we just venturing into diet for dogs world. He started on holistic kibble from Dr Jane Bicks and we adding chicken necks which he loves. Now I am lucky to have free range organic grown kosher chicken store nearby so his chicken necks are still inexpensive and hopefully healthier... but short of going to whole foods store for very expensive meat I am not sure where to go for quality of other meat/ bones...

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 11:59AM
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yeah, I am very jealous Linda of people who have actual butchers in their town.

Around here, all we have is Kroger or Publix. We don't have real butchers where I can buy bulk meat. Fortunately I am married to a professional chef, who can on occasion bring home meat products for the dogs. But its not as regular as I would like.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 2:49AM
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Cindy I can't buy in bulk either, but it's a storage issue. However, I was able to find chicken legs at my regular supermarket for $.69/lb and although they don't carry organ meats, the manager of the meat department said he could order them for me if I was interested. So if you would like to try a raw diet, try speaking with the manager of the meat dept. at your local Kroger or Publix and see if s/he can offer you some suggestions.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 6:05PM
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Nature that sounds great. Actually, I start a new consulting job next week, so raw is going to be time prohibitive for me (as well as storage). Remember, I have three dogs nearing 100 lbs each, plus a 35 lber in this house. I'd be sorting meat all day long.

I have to say I am very pleased with Naturapet's quality of kibble though. I beleive they also sell a brand for people who lean toward the BARF practice.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2009 at 4:26PM
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