The BARF diet stands for two common phrases: ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’ and ‘Bones and Raw Food’. Founded by veterinarian and nutritionist Dr. Ian Billinghurst, the principle is to feed dogs the diet they evolved to eat—a raw diet composed of meats and greens that are fresh, uncooked and wild.
The genetic makeup of domesticated dogs supports this. From Boston Terriers to St. Bernards, dogs are essentially the same as their ancestors, gray wolves.
The raw diet is high in protein, moderate in fat, has minimal amounts of carbohydrates and consists of:
- Muscle meat
- Raw meaty bones
- Organ meat
- Vegetables and fruits
How Much Raw Food Should You Feed?
Regardless of food, whether it be dehydrated, raw or treats, it’s always important to take into account dog weight and age.
Try our handy feeding calculator to estimate how much food you should be feeding your pet based on these factors.
Benefits of Feeding Your Dog the BARF Diet
There are numerous health benefits to feeding your dog a raw food diet. These include:
- Leaner, more muscular build; nearly 60% of dogs are overweight or obese based on body condition scoring, which leads to a number of related conditions
- Skin and coat improvements
- Cleaner teeth and fresher breath
- Less odor
- Vibrant, calm energy
And don't forget about the environmental benefits: feeding raw lowers our ecological footprint. A raw diet is more fully utilized by dogs’ and cats’ bodies, which equates to smaller stools and cleaner litter boxes.
The B.A.R.F. diet also uses animal parts like organ meats that, while safe for us to eat, are usually avoided by humans. Using these parts of the meat reduces waste.
In short: what’s good for our pets is also good for our environment. It’s truly a win-win.
Research Supports BARF
Dr. Karen Becker, integrative wellness veterinarian, is a strong proponent of raw food diets for dogs, and her research backs up her claims.
Her writings on the BARF diet shows how beneficial feeding raw can be for your pet compared to traditional kibble. Becker visited experienced veterinarian Dr. Anna Hielm-Björkman from Helsinki, Finland to learn more about her research from studying pet food and raw meat diets in pets from the last 20 years.
Dr. Björkman was studying levels of homocysteine in dogs, which is a marker of inflammation and chronic disease relating to diet. Her experiment involved four groups of dogs for six months. The first group consisted of previously raw fed dogs who were switched to dry food for the second half of the study. The second group consisted of dry-fed dogs that were switched to raw food for three months. The third and fourth groups continued eating their regular food (either dry or raw for the full six-month study).
The research showed that dogs fed raw food who continued to eat raw food had the lowest homocysteine levels, while dogs who ate dry food and continued eating dry food had the highest levels of homocysteine, 10 times more than the raw fed group. Similarly, the dogs raised on raw food and switched to kibble had a fivefold increase in levels of the disease marker in the body at the completion of the study.