Transitioning Your Dog to the BARF Diet
Switching your dog to the BARF diet (biologically appropriate raw foods) can greatly increase their health and longevity. A raw food diet for dogs is a healthier, more natural, and more nutritionally complete diet than cooked or store bought foods. It can soften their coat, increase their energy, and help with a variety of allergies and digestive problems. Nonetheless, when making any changes to your dog’s diet, there are a number of important factors to consider.
1) Determine how much raw and cooked food to use.
When switching a dog to a raw foods diet, some people choose to go entirely raw, whereas others still incorporate a degree of cooked food. Dogs are omnivores by nature, and it is important to include a variety of fruits and vegetables into your dog’s meals. Many vegetables require cooking in order for your dog to be able to digest them fully, so you may consider incorporating cooked foods into their diet as well. Foods such as meat, organs, bones, eggs, nuts, seeds, and fruit are better served raw, whereas squash, sweet potato, cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables, and leafy greens will be more readily digestible in a cooked state.
2) Find your recipe.
There are a variety of great recipes available for a raw foods diet, or you can make your own. When finding a recipe, consider any health problems or digestive problems your dog has so you can find the recipe that is right for them. For example, dogs with inflammatory bowel problems will require diets with a lower fat content, whereas dogs without this problem can benefit from additional fat. Some dogs have lactose intolerance, so you would want to steer away from recipes incorporating lactose.
3) Make it nutritionally complete.
Many people switch their dogs to home-cooked or raw foods without regard for the nutrition that goes into it. Dogs, like humans, need balanced diets to thrive. Be sure all basic food groups are covered, and add any additional nutritional supplements needed. A lot of home-cooked meals can be deficient in vitamin C, as this is lacking in animal products and most vegetables. Furthermore, vitamin C is easily degraded by heat and exposure to oxygen. Be sure to incorporate ample berries and fresh fruit into the diet, or consider adding a vitamin c supplement to prevent deficiency. It is also important to add a probiotic to the meals such as unsweetened kefir, yogurt, or a powdered supplement.
4) Transition your dog slowly.
This is perhaps the most important thing to consider. Dogs get used to digesting the same food day after day, and a radical change in diet can render them painfully ill. Out of courtesy to your dog, as well as the carpets in your home, transition your dog very slowly onto the new raw food diet. Start by incorporating one-eighth cup of food, morning and night, blended into their regular food. Slowly increase the quantity over the course of two to three weeks.
5) Pay attention to your dog’s health.
Every dog is different, and just because one dog may thrive on a raw food diet, that doesn’t mean it is right for every dog. Pay close attention to the health of your dog to ensure the diet is a good fit. Their coat, eyes, nose, energy levels, and fecal matter are all signs of whether the diet is working in their favor or not. If you notice any irregularities after switching to a raw foods diet, contact a veterinarian or animal nutritionist to see what changes need to be made.
BARF World: What is Barf?
Web DVM: Dogs are Omnivores and Should Be Fed as Such
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer: Home Made, DIY Dog, Cat Food Recipes – Grain Free for the Health of Your Dog, Cat, Grain in if you Must
Dr. Mercola Premium Products: “How You Can Help Keep Your Pet’s Digestive and Immune System Happy and Healthy”