THE RAW TRUTH ABOUT RAW FOOD DIETS
Raw food diets for dogs and cats
are typically referred to as BARF diets. BARF is an acronym
for bones and raw food or biologically appropriate raw
food diet. I think of them as the gold standard among pet
food diets. They consist primarily of ground raw meat and
raw bones, a small amount of raw vegetables, and a little
kelp, alfalfa, and yogurt. Raw food diets are supplied
by commercial vendors in the form of frozen patties or
medallions or they can be home-made.
SCIENCE BEHIND THE DIET
Dogs and cats were domesticated 14,000 and 4,000 years ago,
respectively. For thousands of years their diets consisted of small prey and
food from our own table. That all changed in our country 60 years ago with
the introduction of commercially processed grained-based pet food. We have
made many external changes to our dogs and cats but internally their GI tract
has not changed. Their GI tract has been designed by evolution and retains
its original carnivorous features. Our pets have short and acidic GI systems.
This allows them to digest food quickly and makes them less susceptible to
bacterial infections. Their GI tract was and still is designed to eat
raw food. You never see dogs or cats build fires and barbeque their prey before
eating it! Cooked food takes longer to digest and requires more of the animal’s
energy to do so. Heat destroys enzymes, fatty acids, and antioxidants. It denatures
fats and proteins in the food rendering them less biologically available to
the pet. Francis Pottinger Jr., MD proved in 1942 that diets of cooked food
produced negative health effects in a group 900 cats studied over a 10 year
period. It makes sense that feeding a raw food diet will simulate the diet
that evolution has designed our pets to eat and will allow for optimal health.
The majority of a raw food diet is comprised of raw meat
and bones. About 10-15 % of the diet is made up of raw vegetables, organ meat,
kelp, alfalfa, and yogurt. The ingredients are flexible and generally mimic
the nutrient content of a small prey animal. These ingredients provide a very
natural source of species-appropriate nutrients. The amount fed depends on
many factors such as exercise, age, climate, temperament, growth.
- Raw Meat-in ground or minced form-beef, chicken,
lamb, rabbit, turkey, duck. Organ meats in small amount
are also encouraged-liver, gizzard, kidney, heart.
- Raw Bones-are safe, wonderful nutrition, and very
bioavailable. Cooked bones are very dangerous. They
splinter and cannot be digested properly. Raw bones
provide nutritious marrow, amino acids and proteins,
essential fatty acids, fiber, enzymes, antioxidants,
minerals, and vitamins.
- Raw Veggies-need to be pulped-this mimics how they
would be found in the prey’s stomach. Feed a
variety-asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower,
chard, kale, squash, spinach, potatoes, yams, carrots.
- Extras- Kelp/alfalfa powder in a 50/50 mixture provides
vitamins and minerals to balance out the meal. Fish
oil will supply essential fatty acids. Cod liver oil
will provide an excellent source of Vitamins A and
will provide proper probiotics to aid in the digestive
process. Lastly, Vitamin C rounds out the list
of ingredients. It is important to add these “extras” because
our present-day food chain is depleted of them due
to poor soil conditions and other pollutants.