June 22, 2009

Bone Apetit: Starting the BARF Diet

Last in a four-part series on the BARF diet
Rich: I will never forget the first time I fed Boomer a raw chicken wing, bones and all. Boomer always approaches new things cautiously and there I was, taking on faith information from the Internet saying that it was perfectly safe for dogs to eat raw chicken bones. This went against everything I'd ever heard about feeding dogs chicken bones. (Caution: it is perfectly dangerous for dogs to eat cooked chicken bones.) I wondered what I would say to Jane if our precious five-month-old puppy choked before my eyes.

Boomer took the wing from my hand, moved to a safe distance where he wouldn't be disturbed, and began his work. He methodically mashed the still-intact wing to break up the bones, then swallowed it all in one satisfying gulp. He licked his lips and strutted like a conquering king. I've never felt so relieved in all my life. He would live to eat again!

The WoofGang experience with raw food feeding over the past two years has been nothing but positive--and never again as nerve-wracking as that first adventure. Having approached the subject from several angles, I'll offer the following thoughts on how you might go about adopting this diet for your doggie kid(s):

The two chief options for feeding raw involve a trade-off between time, money, knowledge, and the hassle of handling raw meat. Let's look at each:

Frozen Raw Ready-made Preparations

For the past two years, the WoofGang preferred this raw food choice. Through the dog-park grapevine, I met other raw food feeders, one of whom recommended me to a local lady who operated a discount, high-end dog-food supply business from her home. I quickly became a regular monthly buyer of Bravo raw food and fed it with great success to Boomer.

You may have a similarly enterprising neighbor who sells from her home. Or you might simply visit your local natural pet market and peruse the food freezers. You will see a bewildering assortment of brands, presentations, and price points tailored to every imaginable dog owner's need. In our local pet store this past Saturday, I saw prices ranging from $2.99 per pound for chicken-based raw food to $6.75 per pound for goat meat.

These frozen preparations come in a variety of forms to make them easy to handle. There are frozen hamburger-like patties, cubes, and sausage-like rolls. The WoofGang's tried all these forms, all with equal feeding success. In the end, with two hungry Labs, we found the sausage-like 10-pound rolls to be the most economical (buying in bulk, we paid about $2 per pound). We buy the cubes when boarding for the dog keeper's convenience.

Advantages of pre-made preparations:
* No special knowledge of your dog's nutritional needs is required to feed a complete diet.
* Less handling of raw meat.
* Convenient for maintaining a raw diet while boarding.
* Choose from chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb and goat preparations.
* Many organic choices are available.

* Pricey.
* Not sold in local supermarkets.

Do-it-yourself BARF Feeding

Now with two hungry mouths to feed, the WoofGang is migrating toward making our own food choices. To feed a complete diet requires a bit more knowledge, so I recommend you do your research. Dr. Billinghurst's Give Your Dog a Bone is a terrific, entertaining, and complete instruction manual. And, of course, preparing your dog's meals this way involves some food handling, but really no more than for preparing your family meals. Here are a few key points:

Your dog's diet should consist of about 60-70 percent raw meaty bones. These meaty bones should come from chicken, beef, lamb, rabbit, pork, goat, buffalo, and deer. Chicken (wings, necks, thighs,and backs) is an ideal food. Bones are extremely important and satisfying for your dog, so do not feed just muscle meat every day.

Other animal products to feed include organ meats (liver, kidney, heart, and brains), eggs (the WoofGang even eats the shells), cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, milk, and butter. Fatty fish seafood is also great.

Vegetable and plant products to feed can be any leafy green vegetable, cauliflower, broccoli (don't over do it to avoid stomach distress at first), brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots (baby carrots are a WoofGang favorite treat), fresh fruit, beans (don't experiment when having company over!) and whole grains.

Lastly, you should include a variety of oils such as cod liver, soybean, wheat germ, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil.

Many of my raw-feeding friends also add a vitamin supplement, brewers yeast, or kelp powder to round out the diet.

I am an occasional juicer, so many times I will feed the dogs the pulp from the carrot-celery-ginger-kale-swiss chard-or-whatever cocktail I make for myself. I pour some of the juice back on top of it to moisten it and Boomer and Daisy gobble it down!

Feed your dog about 2-3 percent of its weight in food per day. Boomer is full-grown at about 80 pounds, so he eats about two pounds of food per day. Daisy, at around 50 pounds, eats around 1.5 pounds per day.

On the raw diet, your dog probably won't drink as much water as before. This is normal for a raw-fed dog. His raw diet supplies much of what Fido needs.

Please do your own research if you decide to feed a strict vegetarian diet to your dog. I know of no one feeding this diet and cannot comment on its efficacy from any of my research.

As with any diet change, you should make the transition to raw food over a week to ten days. Once you understand and get comfortable with it, you may find--as we did--that it's a great way to go. We'd love to hear your success stories with raw food feeding.

Now, hand me that package of raw chicken wings. It's mealtime.


  1. Interesting to watch you ease in to this - we are still on the fence, and will watch with great interest...

  2. Wow! We'd love to have lots more raw food but our parents are vegetarians so it's the easy stuff for us; bones, a bit of mince and the occasional raw chicken.. would love to gobble up some intestines or liver so hopefully, after reading this article, mum will spoil us with some goodness...

  3. Turbophp bars are easily similar with regular dog food due to 100% natural, human grade, best ingredient that surpass AAFCO standards dogs.meal bars for dogs



"Daisy, are they clean yet?"

Happiness Is . . .

Happiness Is . . .
a warm puppy named Daisy!