N.B NEVER FEED YOUR DOG COOKED BONES!!
There are two schools of thought amongst devotees of BARF feeding – the pro fruit & veg camp and the anti fruit & veg camp ...... I subscribe to the former, my dogs love the fruit and vegetable element of the diet! Remember - it is raw MEATY BONES that form the mainstay of this diet NOT JUST MEAT.
Feeding the BARF diet - basically there are two possible scenarios - EITHER you already have a dog and are considering changing its diet for some reason OR you are planning on getting a puppy and wonder on what to feed it!!
Why might you consider changing your adult dog’s diet from a “conventional” kibble, or even tinned food, to the BARF diet? Again, basically two reasons – medical or aesthetic! If your dog has any of a variety of allergies or digestive problems OR if you just don’t “fancy” the same-old-same-old stuff out of a bag (of which you can never be 100% sure of the contents unless you have a higher degree in food labelling!!) the BARF diet could be the solution. The reason I was converted to this diet more than 15 years ago was due to having a bitch with a severe contact allergy to many pollens – grass and some wild plants and trees. Inspite of being treated with a special customised de-sensitising vaccine flown in from the US there was no improvement, but within a few weeks of putting her on this diet her skin rash (which often became sore and even infected through persistent scratching) had disappeared and she had no further problems for the rest of her very long life!
Can you rear puppies on the BARF diet? ... most emphatically YES! If you are breeding a litter you will, of course already be an experienced dog owner, so I will not go into the details of weaning and rearing pups on a raw diet here, however suffice it to say puppies can be weaned straight onto a raw diet; they will love it and will thrive on it! I will consider the prospective puppy owner, whose breeder has not reared the litter on the raw diet, but who would like to feed their new pup this way. Firstly, the old adage applies ... for the first few days in a new home it is probably best to keep the pup on the food provided by the breeder (which it should be - if this is not offered by your breeder then do not hesitate to ask for it!!) A puppy will have a lot to get used to in its new surroundings (not least a change in the water which is often overlooked as a cause of digestive upset in new puppies) so to stress it further by changing its diet is not a good idea. “All the books” say change over the diet gradually and I would absolutely agree with this when changing from one kibble to another, but I believe it is less critical when changing to a raw diet HOWEVER, it is still best to proceed with caution and observe your puppy extra-carefully as you make the change.
Young puppies not used to bones are usually put on to chicken wings to start with and these can be smashed up a bit with the side of a meat cleaver, a steak mallet or the back of a hand axe for the first couple of days (unless a giant breed pup when it probably won’t be necessary!!) if they are puzzled about how to deal with a whole wing. Be assured it will not take long for them to get used to it!!
I have encountered a number of people who say their puppy or dog will not eat the fruit & veg element of the diet; if you wish to include this, do not be persuaded to give up just because your pup is not immediately keen to eat it (although I’ve never had any trouble!). Some of the BARF books say add minced meat to the mix and gradually reduce it over a few days others advocate adding a small sprinkling of grated cheese or similar – personally I would NOT go down this route and allow my dog to train me to give them the “treats” that they want!! I would introduce the fruit/veg meal first and a few meals later the raw meaty bone/chicken wing meal.
Pros and Cons of the BARF diet!!
Pros - improvement in general well-being, fantastic teeth, “curing” of many allergies, the benefit of knowing exactly what your dog is eating, the obvious pleasure and enjoyment of the dog.
Cons – TO BEGIN WITH it can seem like a lot of trouble, but once you get into a routine it isn’t! Travelling/going on holiday can be tricky, there are two ways round this: you can buy pre-packed BARF food (it is expensive but would be OK for a short period) OR you can give your dog a high quality, preferably grain-free, kibble meal maybe once a fortnight when at home so that its system is accustomed to it and, in an emergency or when travelling it can be fed this kibble for a while without harm (this is the strategy I follow and I use Challenge Salmon and Potato kibble which I find to be one of the best kibbles)
You can research details of the BARF diet online or in assorted books (I recommend “Give Your Dog a Bone” by Ian Billinghurst) but if you need further help or advice or have any specific queries don’t hesitate to contact me! I could write much more on this diet, but I think that’s enough for now (although there is a little more information on my website www.barbetchasseurfrancais.info/feeding.html !)