Philosophy of a Raw Diet for Pets

Devised by Dr. Ian Billinghurst

 Dr. Ian Billinghurst

What is BARF? BARF is about feeding dogs and cats properly. The aim of BARF is to maximize the health, longevity and reproductive capacity of dogs and cats and by so doing, minimize the need for veterinary intervention. How do you feed a dog or cat properly? You feed it the diet that it evolved to eat or its evolutionary diet. A Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet. A BARF diet.

In the case of the cat, which is an obligate carnivore and a hunter, the biologically appropriate diet is based largely upon animal derived foodstuffs like flesh, bones and organs. Basically, whatever nutrition can be derived from a whole fresh raw carcass - in its entirety - constitutes a biologically appropriate diet. In the case of the dog which is an omnivore, a hunter and a scavenger, the diet can be based on a wider range of whole raw foods of both animal and plant origin, with the further proviso that the foods may be either fresh or auto-decaying via endogenous enzymes.

Both species rely on bones as a major part of their diet for a variety of reasons including teeth cleaning and the myriad of benefits which flow from that together with the nutritional attributes of bones, their psychological benefits and so on.

The BARF movement appears to have started in response to the dietary guidelines outlined in the book "Give Your Dog a Bone" written by Ian Billinghurst. The Barf Philosophy The philosophy behind using BARF, or the hypothesis on which it is based is that the diet a dog or cat 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 or cat BARF, it means not feeding your them cooked and/or processed food. That is, not feeding your them a diet based on cooked grains, no matter how persuasive the advertising. Artificial grain based dog and cat foods cause innumerable health problems. They are not what your dog or cat was programmed to eat during its long process of evolution.

A biologically appropriate diet for a dog or cat 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 in for dogs, vegetable materials and any other "foods" that will mimic what those wild ancestors ate. Please note that modern dogs or cats 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 and cats, 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 and cats 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 and cats 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 and cats 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 and cats 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 and cats. I have fed my own dogs and cats with these bones for decades, as have thousands of my clients and readers of my books. For most dogs and cats, whole raw meaty bones do not constitute a danger. They simply and easily promote positive good health being a biologically appropriate food for. However, where there is a perceived danger, do not stop feeding bones. In this case, simply use bones that have been finely ground.