Dogs are man’s best friend. Domesticated at an early age, the house dog (Canis lupus familiaris) has long been in the foreground as a working animal. In the meantime, dogs have arrived in the middle of families and households as pets and receive – in addition to significantly more attention – also higher quality food.
But: Veterinary medicine has been observing for years that allergies are becoming more common. According to studies by the University of Munich, the focus here is also on feed allergies, the frequency of which varies between less than two percent and two thirds, depending on the source. The owners hold responsible for this, among other things, additives and preservatives in commercial feed.
The return to raw meat feeding – BARFing – is celebrated as a real alternative. But can BARF actually meet this requirement in practice?
BARF has been given different meanings in the past. In addition to Born-Again Raw Feeders or Bones And Raw Foods, biologically appropriate raw food also appears as an interpretation in the literature.
Basically, BARF aims at raw meat feeding according to the prey animal concept, which is essentially based on the nutrition of wolves and wild dogs. Muscle meat, offal and bones from slaughtered animals are fed, among other things.
At BARF, the dog’s diet is modeled on that of the wolf. © shutterstock.com
An estimated 25 percent of all dog owners BARF their dog completely or at least partially.
Individual composition of the feed
The biggest advantage is certainly that you can put together the dog’s rations yourself and therefore know exactly what ends up in the food bowl. BARF is ideal, especially for dogs that have developed an allergy or another disease, because the incompatible ingredients are simply left out when composing the food.
But be careful! With a ready-made barf menu, the advantage of the individual composition is of course lost again.
BARF is often associated with “close to nature”. Nothing is heated, everything should be left as natural as possible, nothing artificial should be added. By dispensing with heating, as many nutrients as possible are preserved in the food, so that it is not necessary to replace them with artificial nutrients. The orientation towards the wolf also suggests a certain naturalness here, since the wolf is an animal that lives in the wild.
In contrast to finished feed, raw feeding scores with naturalness. © shutterstock.com
Better feed conversion
Digestibility means how much of the food the digestive tract actually uses. The higher the digestibility, the more efficiently the feed is used by the organism. The digestibility of dry food is 85 to 90 percent. If you put together rations yourself from fresh food, the digestibility is over 90 percent. Raw meat has a digestibility of 92 percent, heated meat is about 90 percent digestible, but this difference is marginal.
Raw meat is often contaminated with germs that can have a pathogenic effect. Many dog owners believe that this is not so relevant for the dog because the dog’s stomach acid would kill the germs. However, this is not entirely true, as it also depends on the type of germs. Exposure to clostridia z. B. can lead to the fact that more toxins are formed in the intestine, which can lead to liver strain.
Dogs are not as sensitive as humans, but they can also get sick, or they excrete the germs, making them a source of infection for other animals or people. Hygiene should therefore be the be-all and end-all when feeding raw meat.
Unbalanced nutrient supply
Owners also underestimate the fact that BARF is by no means automatically the healthiest of all feeding options. Inexperienced keepers often find it difficult to calculate the real needs of the animals. It should be noted here, for example, that:
For example, it is known that the presence of certain ingredients inhibits the absorption of minerals. With regard to the phases of life, the following principle also applies: Adolescent dogs need a different feed composition than old animals. Too much energy can cause stunted growth. The same applies to an inadequate supply of minerals.
If you mess up when putting together the BARF ration, you risk your dog’s health. © shutterstock.com
Both with commercial barf menus and with barf rations you put together yourself, there are always deficiencies or an oversupply of nutrients. Both can have negative long-term effects on the dog’s health. This cannot be counteracted by regular blood tests, as a blood count does not reflect the actual supply of nutrients.
In order to check whether the dog is well supplied with the barf ration, a ration check by a specialist is best.
The ecological paw print
Environmental protection is currently very important, climate protection is important. The factory farming practiced today, which is the basis of our high meat consumption, is associated with great environmental pollution.
According to a study, 64 million tons of CO2 emissions per year are due to the consumption of meat by pets. The meat content of the bar is significantly higher than actually needed.
BARFing has become a trend in dog food in recent years. Behind this is the desire to feed the dog healthy and natural. However, looking at relatives living in the wild like the wolf is the wrong approach.
The reason: dog and wolf have distanced themselves from each other in terms of metabolism. This also applies to the adaptation to carbohydrates in the feed. BARFers must take this fact into account and adapt the animal’s diet accordingly.
In addition, it must be clear which risks can result from BARFing – for all parties involved. It is certainly not a mistake to seek professional advice when drawing up a feeding schedule. In the meantime, various veterinarians have specialized in the calculation and creation of nutrition plans for dogs.