You've probably heard about it, but really, what is the "raw diet" for pets? Basically, it's a diet geared toward carnivorous animals such as dog or cats, consisting of ground up raw meats and meaty bones, organs, and certain types of fruits and vegetables. You can make it at home or buy pre-made frozen, ground meat patties or pellets.
In 1993, Australian veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst suggested such a diet for pet canines. This diet, modeled after the natural food sources canines would have consumed before they became domesticated, is 100% free of grains (corn, wheat, etc) which are common in most commercial dog foods today. He argued that modern, grain-based commercial pet food were harmful to a dog's overall health, and possibly the root causes for allergies, cancer, and other pet health issues. He called his diet the BARF diet, an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
Supporters of the BARF diet proclaim many pet health benefits such as:
- shiner coats
- healthier, tarter free teeth
- healthier skin
- higher energy levels
- smaller stools
- less "doggie" smell
Based on the recent wide spread recalls on pet foods, consumer interest in "raw" pet foods have been surging. Several commercial companies are now providing pre-ground, biologically and nutritionally balanced raw pet foods for retail purchase. Sold in frozen patty or frozen pellet form, these foods are nearly as convenient as traditional pet foods. As such, the real deterrent comes from pricing. Typically, these raw frozen pet foods are sold at a higher, premium price tag. Where traditional "dry kibble" premium pet foods can run at $1 or less per day, raw foods can be two or three times that amount.
But FDA experts warn there is a real risk in feeding raw meats to pets. Aside from the bacteria content inherent in the actual meat, experts suggest that the pet animal will spread bacteria to humans in the home, by rubbing their bodies and mouths on furniture or human hands. Detractors say this concern is overblown, and such bacteria can also be found in traditional commercial dog foods as well as meats being prepared for human consumption.
I've just switched my 7 year old english bulldog over to the raw diet, with the brand "Nature's Variety." We are trying out the raw beef medallions and, so far, Jeffery the Bulldog is loving it. The brand packaging states that it is prepared with a process called "High Pressure Processing" (HPP) which is a unique process that kills pathogenic bacteria through high-pressure, water-based technology. I also wash my hands throughly after preparing his bowl, and wash the bowl immediately after he finishes his meal (which means I only have to wait for about...oh, 30 seconds.)
It's only been 3 days on this diet, but so far I have noticed smaller stools and less of a dog breath smell. He's loving the real meat (which I defrost for him) so this new diet may be a keeper...after I discuss it with his vet. Out of all the opinions on the 'net about this BARF diet, there does seem to be a real concern about the animal getting all of his nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and others. We may need to add a doggie multivitamin. Does anyone have a good suggestion?