The BARF Philosophy
The philosophy behind using BARF, or the hypothesis on which it is based is that the diet a dog evolved to eat - over many millions of years of evolution - is the best way to feed it. This is the hypothesis accepted by most modern zoos or any zoologist concerned with preserving a species of endangered animal. It is not the theory endorsed by pet food companies or the people they train - and that includes unfortunately - most vets.
If you want to feed your dog BARF, it means not feeding your dog cooked and or processed food. That is, not feeding your dog a diet based on cooked grains, no matter how persuasive the advertising. Artificial grain based dog foods cause innumerable health problems. They are not what your dog was programmed to eat 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. . The food fed must contain the same balance and type of ingredients as consumed by those 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 those wild ancestors ate.
Please note that modern dogs of any breed are not only capable of eating the food of their wild ancestors, but actually require it for maximum health. This is because their basic physiology has changed very little with domestication despite obvious and dramatic changes in their current physical appearance and mindset.
The BARF diet, being an attempt to mimic the evolutionary diet of dogs, must, from a practical point of view, use food that is available from the local supermarket or whatever local or distant source is economically viable. BARF feeders do not have to go hunting or send their dogs out to hunt. That is why I said BARF must mimic, not duplicate the evolutionary diet of dogs. This is an important distinction.
The BARF feeder will MIMIC as closely as possible rather than duplicate the NATURAL diet of the dog. We are not trying to return our dogs to nature. It is impossible to feed any domestic animal its natural diet, let alone allow it to live under natural conditions. There are grave dangers that go along with the natural diet and natural conditions the ancestors or wild cousins of our dogs live with. They face lack of shelter, starvation, attack by other predators, and the potential for their prey to turn on them during the hunt. They also endure without medical intervention including surgery, vaccination, antibiotics and preventative measures against external and internal parasites. In other words, natural conditions can be deadly! They are not what we want for our pets. What we want for our dogs is a diet and an environment that maximizes health. That means a Biologically Appropriate Diet rather than a natural diet. This is my favorite use of the term BARF - Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
One controversial aspect of the BARF dog diet is the use of whole, raw, meaty bones as food for our dogs. I have fed my own dogs with these bones for decades, as have thousands of my clients and readers of my books. For most dogs, whole raw meaty bones do not constitute a danger. They simply and easily promote positive good health being a biologically appropriate food for our dogs. However, where there is a perceived danger, do not stop feeding bones. In these cases, simply use bones that have been finely ground.
Having witnessed first hand the health destroying attributes of commercial pet food together with the health promoting benefits of an evolutionary diet, I had no option but to share this information with my clients. I began to hand out simple diet sheets to any client who was interested, mostly the owners of young pups and people whose pets had severe or long term health problems.
The results were consistent and seemingly amazing as over the next few years. We had the wonderful experience of clients extolling the virtues of this way of feeding. We watched as puppies on this regime grew beautifully and trouble free. We were astounded as sick pets experienced the same dramatic improvements in health that ours had, with many animals becoming totally drug free.
Most noticeable among the problems that cleared up were skin and arthritic problems. However, we saw improvements across the broad spectrum of health issues that we encountered on a day-to-day basis. Over a period of several years, this included incredible improvements in reproductive health, and also in orthopedic problems in young dogs of the giant breeds. Problems such as Hip and Elbow Dysplasia.
By now I realized that most of the disease problems I was seeing in cats and dogs were due to nothing other than poor nutrition. I could see most of those diseases did not have to occur. They could be eliminated with correct nutrition. To me, this was both a revolutionary thought and an incredible revelation. I wanted to tell everybody! The only problem I could see was that my fellow vets would not accept this feeding philosophy because they rely heavily on ill health in their patients for their daily bread.
Dr B and George By the mid to late 1980's, these revolutionary thoughts on nutrition and disease in cats and dogs had taken over my thinking. I had become obsessed. By the end of the 1980's, I had spent years questioning the owners of both healthy and unhealthy pets about their pets' diets. I was told continually that healthy dogs lived and thrived on raw meaty bones. In Australia at least - Raw Meaty Bones were the major contributor to health in both cats and dogs. It was commercial dog foods that were the major cause of ill health.
I should point out that during our undergraduate years; I and my fellow veterinary students accepted the proposition that disease in cats and dogs was inevitable. Rather like human beings! We accepted without question the idea that disease was not something that was in any way preventable. There were a few exceptions such as the small number of diseases we vaccinated animals for, and a limited number of specific deficiency diseases. Those aside, our training did not involve looking for the root cause of disease. Our job was to diagnose disease and begin treatment using surgery and drugs.
It was not part of our training to seek out basic - for example nutritional - causes of disease, and follow that up by using sound management such as dietary regimes as a preventative measure. The idea of trying to prevent the vast majority of the diseases we see in cats and dogs via nutrition was unheard of.
In contrast, the concept of disease prevention via nutrition was - and is - well accepted in farm animals used to produce meat, milk, wool and eggs.
Disease prevention via nutrition is still considered a strange concept in small animal veterinary circles. However, by the mid to late 1980's it had become obvious to me that those - never discussed - basic causes of disease had their roots in poor and inappropriate nutrition. I was also aware that while most medical practitioners and veterinary surgeons had no idea of this concept, many of the patients and clients of those two healing professions, had begun to embrace this approach to health for themselves, if not for their pets.