Bones and Raw Food, aka the BARF diet

As the list of recalls on pet food continues, more and more people are looking for an alternative means of feeding their pets. There are new recalls almost daily and it has scared all of us. Not only the food is being recalled, but biscuits and treats.

When you work at the Verde Valley Humane Society, it means you really need to pay attention to all of the food coming in. Just because it is a well-known brand doesn't mean it is good for the animals right now. Extreme caution is being used for the protection of the animals.

What have you decided to do? Are you sharing your food with your best friend? Feeding our pets' table food is not what we should be doing during this time of panic.

Our animals require different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that they won't get from our diets. Please research before you change your pet's diet.

These recalls are now including a multitude of products and we are left unsure as to what to feed our animals. It struck close to home this week for me. The product I feed my Chihuahua hit the list. Who knows what's safe anymore?

I have been asked about the BARF diet, so I am going to provide some of the information to you. Personally I have not switched to this diet yet, but I have friends that have been feeding their dogs the BARF diet for years and highly recommend it.

An Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst developed the BARF diet. This diet is based on feeding dogs raw, meaty bones, animal offal, raw vegetables and supplements instead of the commercially-processed or home cooked diets that so many of us use. A bag of kibbles is out of the question when it comes to the BARF diet.

Dr. Billinghurst describes the BARF diet in his own words: "The aim of the BARF is to maximize the health, longevity and reproductive capacity of dogs and by so doing, minimize the need for veterinary intervention. How do you feed a dog properly? You feed it the diet that it evolved to eat. Artificial grain based dog foods cause innumerable health problems. They are not what your dog was programmed to at during its long process of evolution. A biologically appropriate diet for a dog is one that consists of raw whole foods similar to those eaten by the dogs' wild ancestors. This food will include such things as muscle meat, bone, fat, organ meat and vegetable materials and any other foods that will mimic what was those wild ancestors ate."

It is very important that you speak with your pets' veterinarian before switching him or her to any other diet. Some vets have serious doubts about feeding raw meat and ground bones to our canine friends; others highly recommend the BARF diet. Please get advice before making any radical changes in your animal's diet.

Are you asking yourself exactly what ingredients would be in this diet if you made it at home? You may be surprised to find out that many of the items can be purchased at your local supermarket. If you have a garden it can provide many of the items needed to formulate a nutritious meal for your "best friend."

The BARF diet includes a variation of items. Organ meat, uncooked muscle, meaty bones, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, raw eggs, cooked cereals, cottage cheese, herbs, enzymes and other supplements.

The items you choose to make the BARF diet should be as fresh as possible. The whole idea is to give our animals the best diet possible. Let's talk about what the different ingredients mean.

A raw meaty bone for example means that the bones are at least half meat and include a bone that is fully consumable. Unlike the bones we give our dogs as treats. Those bones are chewed, but not consumed.

The bones used in the BARF diet usually include turkey and chicken necks, leg quarters, backs, necks and breasts of lamb and pork, plus pork rib lets. These items are at times harder to find than normal bones. It may be necessary to order them from your butcher by the case. This is another time that it would be a good idea to team up with a friend and make the diet in mass.

Canned fish with bones is often used in making the diet. Types used may be pink salmon, sardines and mackerel. Use caution if you choose to use raw fish, it may contain parasites that can be harmful to your pet.

These raw meaty bones should make up 30 to 50 per cent of the total diet. Research before you begin to make your own BARF diet, as there are many variables for you to consider. Such as, will you be grinding the items in the diet?

In the BARF diet and important ingredient is also organ meat. Kidney and liver are nutrient-dense and provide nutritional value. Hearts may also be used, but they are more like muscle meat. You may also use the spleen, eyeballs, brain, pancreas and thymus in small amounts.

Muscle meats include any meat that is not considered an organ meat. It can be fed in chunks or ground.

Eggs may be fed raw or cooked. It is said for easier digestion that you may want to cook them as the whites are easier on the digestive tract.

Cottage cheese, kefir and yogurt are well tolerated dairy products that are very nutritious for our pets.

Dogs do not require carbohydrates, so feeding fruit; vegetables and grains are a choice that you get to make. They do provide some nutritional value, especially if you use the green leafy types. Due to fact that most vegetables low-calorie content, they may be added as extras in the diet. It is advised to cook or puree them for better digestion.

If you choose to add fruits to the diet, remember to avoid raisins and grapes, which may lead to kidney damage in some dogs. Melons, berries, bananas and apples are very good choices.

Using starchy vegetables, legumes or grains may lead to problems while not providing much nutrition in the process.

Supplements must be added to the diet to provide your best friend with everything he or she needs. The recommended list contains:

• Salmon oil or fish body oil (along with Vitamin E)

• Kelp/alfalfa mixtures or sea blends

• Apple Cider vinegar (organic)

• Raw honey

• Crushed garlic (no more than one small clove per 20 pounds of dog)

• Dark molasses

• Ginger

• Nutritional yeast

The subject of the BARF diet has been "slightly touched" in my column today. My thoughts were to provide you with information that may help you decide if this is something you would like to do for your pets.

Researching the subject is something that I highly recommend. The ingredients need to be used in proper portions to avoid any gastrointestinal problems.

Many have asked me if I have seen the results of this diet when used on our canine friends. Indeed I have. Your questions and my observations are what made me write about the subject today.

What I observed were healthy, allergy free animals with silky coats and great looking teeth. That speaks loudly in my ears.

Have I switched my "best friends" to this diet yet? No, but I have to admit if there are any more recalls I will be looking for a "BARF Diet Buddy."

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