Always searching for better, more economic diets for dogs, breeders, and exhibitors of pets and performance dogs are traveling in two directions these days. The majority of these dog owners cheer on the development of ever more specialized commercial diets by premium pet food manufacturers. However, a growing and increasingly vocal segment of the population is switching to BARF, the diet familiarly known as “bones and raw food” but also tagged as “biologically appropriate raw food,” “Billinghurst Australian real food” and the “born again raw feeders” diet.
Developed by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst, the BARF diet under any appellation is based on feeding raw, meaty bones, animal offal, raw vegetables, and supplements instead of commercially-processed or cooked homemade diets.
Billinghurst has published two books about BARF: Give Your Dog a Bone in 1993 and Grow Your Pups with Bones.
Dr. Billinghurst describes BARF this way:
“BARF is about feeding dogs properly. The aim of BARF is to maximize the health, longevity and reproductive capacity of dogs and by so doing, minimize the need for veterinary intervention. How do you feed a dog properly? You feed it the diet that it evolved to eat. … Artificial grain based dog foods cause innumerable health problems. They are not what your dog was programmed to eat during its long process of evolution. A biologically appropriate diet for a dog 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 vegetable materials and any other foods that will mimic what was those wild ancestors ate.”
Those who feed BARF point out that kibbled foods have been around for about 60 years but that dogs ate handouts from human tables for millennia before processed foods were marketed. However, the debate rages hot and heavy. Those who develop processed dog foods and those who feed these diets point out the scientific reports that back their claims; those who feed BARF are equally as adamant that their anecdotal evidence about dog health and well-being proves the value of fresh, raw food.