Feeding Your Dog a Raw Diet


What is the BARF diet?

Many dog owners, in the interest of choosing a nutritional diet for their pet, have found success with the BARF diet. “BARF” is an acronym that stands for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” or “Bones and Raw Food”. It can also be known as SARF, or “Species Appropriate Raw Food”. Rather than feeding a dog, cat, or other domesticated pet traditional commercial pet food, the animal is fed a diet based on what the animal’s ancestors ate naturally. Dogs, and their relatives, wolves, are naturally “opportunistic carnivores” or omnivores. (Cats are true carnivores). For dogs, the foundation of a BARF diet is raw meaty bones. Various additives, such as raw eggs and vegetables are also included.

Why choose to feed my greyhound BARF?

Greyhounds, like all living beings, require proper nutrition to maintain good health and a strong immune system. Many dog owners who feed their pets according to the BARF regimen find that their pets require fewer visits to the vet and are generally healthier than when fed traditional dog food. Feeding with the BARF plan does not make you a “better” pet owner, nor does feeding your greyhound traditional kibble make you a “bad” pet owner. Each owner must make a decision that will work for them and keep their greyhound healthy. However you choose to feed your pet, make sure your decision is well-informed and that your greyhound is receiving the nutrition he or she needs.

What is a typical weekly meal plan?

Dogs should receive a meal sized according to their weight and/or age. Most authorities recommend 1/2 pound of food per day for every 25 pounds of body weight. You may need to vary the amount you feed each week depending on the amount of exercise your dog is receiving. Your dog’s hipbones are a great guideline for whether your greyhound is at a good weight – if the tips of the hipbones have disappeared, you should reduce the amount you are feeding. The tips of the hipbones look like two tiny bumps on either side of the spine, a few inches up from the base of the tail. If you don’t see these, try feeling for them, they are 4-5 inches apart. At a good weight, you will just be able to see these little bumps. At this point, you can usually see at least two ribs on most greyhounds.

As noted, raw meaty bones form the foundation of the BARF diet. The “salad mixture” can be prepared and frozen in large quantities to thaw for future meals. You can customize the meals based on what meats are available and the time you have available for preparation.

A sample meal plan:

Every morning: “salad mix” with 1/2 teaspoon of a vitamin mineral supplement.
Every evening: raw meaty bones (bones, skin, fat, and all)

Examples of good RMBs (raw meaty bones) for the evening meal: chicken or turkey necks, backs, and wings. For variety, lamb neck bones, lamb or beef ribs, sardines or canned jack mackerel, and organ meat (liver, kidney) are good. Legs and thighs do not make good choices because they do not have the proper bone-fat-protein ratio.

The Salad: can contain a variety of ingredients, but keep the base equal parts raw veggies and raw meat blended with raw egg. Pre-ground meat (e.g. liver), a variety of vegetables, apples, garlic cloves (enough for one per day), collard greens, carrots, raw eggs, raw honey, apple cider vinegar, and oil (flaxseed oil, salmon, or fish body oil are some options—flaxseed contains the most healthful omega fatty acids) are good ingredients. Mix thoroughly in a food processor, and place in a resealable container (empty yogurt containers are great for individual serving sizes) to freeze until needed. Make a batch to last for a couple of weeks, and you’re all set! This salad mixture will give your dog carbohydrates, enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids in a similar manner and balance to those eaten by their wild ancestors.

Wait…dogs can’t eat chicken bones. Can they?

We all know the mantra, “Chicken bones will splinter and puncture your dog’s insides.” However, this is only true if you feed your dog cooked and/or old, dry bones. Raw, fresh chicken bones are pliable and will not splinter. A dog’s (and a cat’s) body is designed to use bones as the main source of minerals like calcium and phosphorous.

Is this nutritionally complete?

You may have seen advertisements promising complete nutrition for your dog—at every meal. With BARF, every meal doesn’t need to be nutritionally complete—individual human meals certainly aren’t, but over the course of a day you can prepare meals for yourself and your family that provide proper nutrition. Over time, you’ll develop a sense of balance for your dog’s diet as well. If you’re unsure, just keep a note as you’re beginning to ensure that you provide a balanced diet to satisfy your dog’s full nutritional needs. You’ll be surprised at how quickly and easily you can make the adjustment!

Where am I going to get these ingredients?

You should be able to find most of the salad ingredients at your local grocery store. For the raw meaty bones, try your local butcher, who can also help you with organ meat, bone dust, or meat pre-ground. Wholesale meat outlets might also allow you to purchase in bulk. Health food stores can help you find raw honey, fish oil capsules, and other supplements. Pet stores, particularly any that feature organic products, might also be able to point you in the BARF direction. In our area, Whole Foods will sell you chicken backs and necks by the case at a discounted rate. Enquire at the meat department.

This sounds like a lot of work. Is it difficult to prepare?

The best part about the BARF diet is your infinite ability to customize it to match your schedule, needs, and abilities. Your relationship with your dog should be based on love, fun, and trust. You may find that the extra time to purchase, prepare, and serve BARF meals is more than made up by the health, good temper, and long life that your dog could enjoy. You’ll find that a few hours of work make food for a month. To facilitate bulk RMB purchases, you might find that a mini-freezer would be a convenient purchase to hold 40 or 50 pounds of meat.

What about bacteria in raw meat?

Dogs have evolved to eat and thrive on bacteria-laden food. Dogs eat soil, contaminated meat, and other sources of microbes and toxins. Raw food from clean sources is safe for your pet.

Where can I find more information?

You mean there’s more information? Many books and websites are available on the topic. You should transition your dog from commercial dog food to BARF slowly, so as not to shock the digestive system. Some titles to get you started:

The BARF Diet by Dr. Ian Billinghurst

Raw Dog Food: Make it Easy for You and Your Dog by Carina Beth Macdonald

“Barf For Beginners”