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BARF for Beginners

Should I switch cold-turkey or is gradual better?

Most dogs do very well being switched over to BARF cold-turkey, but the change over should be done 'easy.' It is recommended that when you are ready to begin, don't try and rush things. Take is slowly. Try to keep the diet bland and simple at first. This is particularly important for older/middle aged dogs. Don't overload your dog with the 'good stuff' - he may not be able to handle it yet - particularly after a lifetime on kibble. Start with just some lean chicken or turkey necks or backs only for the first couple of days, keeping meals small to begin with and don't let your dog overdo it. Once the dog has settled into this, add some bland veggies with a bit of lean mince (ground meat). 

The veggies do need to be pulped up using something like a blender, juicer or food processor. You are aiming for something a bit like the vegetable matter found in the stomach of a prey animal. The reason for this is that dogs can not digest cellulose. Cell walls of plants are made of cellulose, so for our dogs to get the nutrients out of them, we need to crush the cell walls. Chopping them up only crushes the cell walls on the outside, leaving the bit in the middle pretty much unavailable to them nutritionally. Cooking them will also destroy the cell walls, but as this also destroys a lot of the nutrients and enzymes in the veggies, it kind of defeats the purpose. 

You can start adding richer food like eggs and liver (and maybe leaving a little bit more fat on the chicken/turkey) after a week or two once your dog is used to the simple diet. 

Can I feed dried dog food AND BARF?

Kibble and raw food are digested differently, and should never be fed together, in the same meal. If you feed dry kibble at the same meal as the raw meat, you are increasing the amount of time the food is in the body, and it's harder work for the dogs digestive system. So, if you want to feed half & half, feed kibble one meal, raw the next. 

Should I cook the meat?

Cooking would render the food biologically inappropriate in a fundamental way. Cooked food loses much nutritional value, including enzymes and biologically active essential fatty acids. The latter, being damaged by heat and oxygen, become slow poisons, doing irreparable damage. Cooking causes complexes to form between proteins and starches, between vitamins and trace minerals, and between minerals. Cooking produces carcinogens and anti-immunogens. Many minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins also become indigestible

Is my dog experiencing detox?

When switching a dog over from commercial dog food to BARF, the dog's body may begin the process of ridding itself of toxins and impurities as it adjusts to the intake of proper nutrients. This process is called detox. Depending on the overall health of your dog, detox may last one week, one month or even several weeks...or not even at all. The most common symptoms of detox include vomiting, diarrhea, bad breath and itchy skin. It is normal for any of these detox symptoms to get worse before they get better...just don't give up and hang in there. Keep your dog as comfortable as possible during this process. Go slow on introducing new foods, to make sure there are no allergies. Pure pumpkin in the can (not pumpkin pie filling) works magic to firm stools quickly. Provide plenty of fresh water, but limit excessive water intake immediately after meals, as your dog may regurgitate. 

How much do I feed daily?

It's recommend 60% RMBs and 40% veggies, etc... however; 60% to 75% CAN BE RMBs and the rest should be a combination of veggies, organs (also known as offal, to include liver, heart, kidney, green tripe, etc...), ground meat (e.g. lean beef, chicken or turkey), eggs and supplements. If you are just starting BARF, remember to start slow by adding new food items every few days or even weeks, until your dog gets used to the new food (especially the richer foods like liver). 

Adult dogs can be fed between 2-3% of the their body weight. We recommend starting with 1/2 pound of food per 25 lbs of body weight daily and make adjustments according to your dog's age and activity. We also suggest that the daily ration be split to feed morning and night. Remember that a healthy dog is not overweight. 

Feed puppies up to 10% of their body weight. Therefore, if your pup weighs 10 lbs you should feed 1 lb of food divided between 3 or 4 feedings per day. Growing puppies, especially the large breeds, should be kept lean so adjustments to feeding amounts will have to be monitored closely. 

You can feed for excample

  • Chicken backs/carcasses
  • Chicken necks
  • Chicken wings
  • Chicken legs (thigh & drumsticks)
  • Turkey
  • Beef Mince
  • Beef Chunks
  • Beef ribs
  • Lamb (a little, as it is rich)
  • Lamb ribs & laps
  • Lamb Chunks
  • Lamb necks
  • Fish: Mackerel, Sardines, Sprats, etc. Canned fish (never in brine, so Spring Water, or Oil), or whole fish - head, tail, etc included. Salmon should be frozen first if it is fresh.
  • Offal: Organ meat - heart, kidney, liver, tripe (also very rich)

This is only a guide to help get you started. If your dog is on the skinnier side, up the food (RMBs) and reduce the veggies....if your dog is on the heavier side, reduce the RMBs and up the veggies. To know if your dog is 'just right,' rub the back of your hand.....his/her ribs should feel the same. If you can't feel his/her ribs, then reduce the daily food intake.

When should I start introducing veggies/fruit?

They are probably the second thing I would introduce after some Raw Meaty Bones such as chicken (Oh, I may add some yogurt or probiotics first though). When to add them usually depends on your dog. If he handles the chicken RMBs well for a few days, you can try adding some bland veggie mix (with perhaps some lean ground meat to tempt). You can add it sooner if the dog is getting a little constipated, or later if things are still a bit soft and runny ;-). Either way, try and keep the diet fairly bland and low fat for a while when starting out. 

We don't feed vegetables I'll explain why in another discussion.  


  • Carrot
  • Parsnip
  • Green beans
  • Squash
  • Celery
  • Spinach (small amount as it is rich)
  • Kale (small amount as it is rich)

Vegetables need to be liquidised/finely grated for the dogs to get the benefit out of them. Dogs cannot break down cellulose, which make up the walls of the vegetables, so that the dog can get the benefit out of the nutrients. Liquidising them will break down the cell walls and release the nutrients for your dogs. Chopping them will break down the walls on the outside of the vegetables so liquidising them breaks down more of the cell walls and releases more of the nutrients.

Whole Apple
Unpeeled apples are especially high in non-pro-vitamin A carotenes and pectin. Pectin is a remarkable type of fiber that has been shown to exert a number of beneficial effects. Due to its gel forming fiber, it can improve the intestinal muscle's ability to push waste through the gastrointestinal tract. Pectin also binds to and eliminates toxins in the gut. Apples are also rich in beta carotene and vitamin C as well as several B complex vitamins including vitamin B6, folic acid and lots of potassium.

Whole Pear
Pears are an excellent source of water-soluble fiber, including pectin, which makes them useful in toning the intestines. Fresh pears contain potassium, which is necessary for maintaining heartbeat, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and carbohydrate metabolism. Pears also contain Vitamin C. An important antioxidant, Vitamin C is essential for helping prevent free radical damage.

Whole Grapefruit
Grapefruit is a good source of flavonoids, water soluble fibers, potassium, vitamin C, and folic acid. Grapefruit, like other citrus fruits has been shown to exert some anticancer effects in both human and animal studies. Grapefruit pectin has been shown to possess similar cholesterol lowering action to other fruit pectins. The whole fruit contains more pectin than the juice. Recently, grapefruit has been shown to normalize hematocrit levels. The word hematocrit refers to the percentage of red blood cells per volume of blood. Low hematocrit levels usually reflect anemia. High hematocrit levels may reflect severe dehydration or an increased number of red blood cells. Grapefruit seeds are well known as an anti-fungal agent in that their consumption kills many different types of parasites and assists the body in producing beneficial bacteria. A biologically active natural ingredient found in the seeds kills strep, staph, salmonella, e.coli, candida, herpes, influenza, parasites, fungi and traveler's diarrhea, and is used as an antibiotic, anti fungal, antiprotozoan and antiviral.

Whole Orange
Everyone knows that oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, but they have more to offer nutritionally than just this nutrient. One orange contains generous levels of folate (folic acid), potassium, and thiamin, as well as some calcium and magnesium. Equally important to the nutritional value of oranges is their supply of flavonoids, making oranges a valuable aid in strengthening the immune system, supporting connective tissues, and promoting overall good health. Oranges have been shown to protect against cancer, and fight viral infections.

Benefits of Barf

Living Enzymes are proteins found in raw foods which help the body function. Enzymes are only beneficial to the body if they are living. Once food is cooked or processed, it no longer contains living enzymes. Foods without living enzymes put stress on the pancreas to produce the necessary proteins to function. Living Enzymes in a raw diet restore, repair, and maintain health. Animals replenish their enzymes systems by eating raw unprocessed foods. Our convenient patties retain their living enzymes along with phyto-chemicals, antioxidants, and unprocessed amino acids. Your pet’s long term health depends upon these factors, to ensure a long and healthy lifespan.

Healthy Teeth & Breath
Your pet will have much-improved breath, minimal tartar buildup, and beautifully clean and healthy teeth; all without having to visit the pet dentist or brushing the teeth. In addition, periodontal disease that is so prevalent with pets fed grain-based diets is almost nonexistent. 

Healthy Skin & Coat
This can be one of the first changes you will notice when you start feeding the BARF diet. If those persistent skin problems suddenly disappear or improve, and you no longer need vet visits, medicated washes, antibiotics, cortisone shots and cortisone tablets, it has to mean that the natural, healthy, and raw diet is supplying nutrients that other diets are missing. It really is hard to ignore the deeply colored, lustrous, thick and healthy coat!

Optimum Immune System
It normalizes and strengthens the immune system. The immune system is a wonder of creation. Because the Barf diet contains a good balance of essential fatty acids and other immune normalizing and strengthening nutrients, it reduces inflammatory conditions and waves good-bye to infections. 

Enhanced Digestion & Absorption of Nutrients
Living enzymes break down and utilize food to maximize the digestive system’s effectiveness.

Degenerative Disease
Pet owners that switch their older pets to the BARF diet usually find that whatever degenerative disease their pet has contracted, becomes less of a problem. Our raw diet is not a wonder drug, but it has reversed many aggravating degenerative conditions and has given relief to a variety of diseases. One has to only review the various testimonials to see the dramatic changes that a biologically appropriate diet can make. Even arthritic conditions are improved and you can expect to see greater mobility in your pet. This is part of the reason so many older pets have a new lease on life when switched to the barf diet.

Stool Volume & Odor
Reduced stool volume and odor is a sign of an improved and healthy digestion cycle. The barf diet is more readily absorbed, than grain fed diets, in the digestive system and the result is less stool volume and odor. Odorous stools are a result of improper or incomplete digestion of nutrients.

Healthy, Lean Body Mass
By feeding the BARF diet, your pet will lose unwanted fat and gain that much desired increase in muscle mass. This not only makes your pet look better, it increases your pet’s metabolic rate, its activity levels and its healthy life span.

How can a BARF diet reduce the chances of my dog bloating?

The chances of bloat are much less than on kibble. It is quite rare for a dog to bloat when they are eating a raw diet, for a couple of reasons.

The first is that raw food doesn't swell like kibble which can sometimes cause problems. The second thing is that most dogs eat more slowly when they are eating raw food compared to the familiar "inhale" style eating that dogs use when they are eating kibble. Because they aren't inhaling their food, less air is sucked into the stomach. Another reason is that chewing allows the dog's body to prepare for digestion. The necessary juices and acids are released slightly prior to the "deposit" of food into the stomach.

What about bacteria in raw foods?

The presence of bacteria in raw food often worries pet owners and vets. They assume these bacteria will make pets sick. However, dogs, being scavengers, have evolved to eat and thrive on bacteria laden food, requiring them for immune system maturity. Wild dogs eat the gut contents of their prey, and the feces of many different animals. They eat soil, contaminated meat, buried bones, infected meat and so on. These are all a source of microbes and any toxins they might produce. That is why the bacteria in raw meat are of little to no consequence to ninety-nine plus percent of dogs. This does not mean we recommend bacteria laden food for our pets. What it does mean is that pets that have eaten commercial pet food for most of their life are safe eating raw food from clean sources.

With no grains or starchy vegetables, where does my dog get it's energy requirements from?

When our pets eat dry pet food, most of their energy comes from carbohydrates. That is, from starch, and also, from added sugar. Both sugar and starch are damaging forms of carbohydrate that are biologically inappropriate for pet animals. Together, these two carbohydrates make an enormous contribution to the degenerative diseases in our pets. When pet animals eat their evolutionary diet (the BARF diet) their energy comes principally from protein and fat and very little from carbohydrate. Deriving their energy principally from fats and proteins is health promoting for our pets. Grains can cause sugar levels to rise and then quickly fall causing highs and lows in insulin levels. Grains contain very few vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in comparison to vegetables.

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Replies to This Discussion

A lot of good information for me to read through. Thanks again Rita.

Dear Rita,

I wish I could get hold of you sooner! For us the raw diet worked wonders, but we found the logistics behind it a little difficult. We have two Scotties and two Irish, one of the Scotties being 13. I could see the difference in all of them! What got to me the most was the fact that they drank almost half to a third the amount of water they used to on dry food! We live in South Africa and it is summer here now...and a hot one I must add, every day is +30C!...and where I always needed to fill their waterbowl each day, I only need to do it every third or the night of the second day. The older Scottie got her zest for life back!

But here is our story:

My Irish male was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in October of last year so we were forced to look at alternatives to conventional food. The vet said he would be able to eat Hills ZD, but we found it very expensive and decided to cook our own meals (later we would learn that this, too is not good for him and he got terribly ill). We read up a lot on the internet and compiled our own eating plan. Mainly chicken, veggies and a little rice, or veggies, rice and beef mince.

In the beginning the chicken worked well, but we gave raw chicken pieces and the bones would sometimes get stuck when he defecated. We gave meat in the morning and evening and veggies (pumpkin, carrots, apple, cabbage...whatever was on special at the green crocer!) in the afternoon. The male and two Scotties absolutely loved the veggies, but the female Irish won't touch it!! Not mixed with yoghurt, meaty sauce/soup...nothing! After the bones got stuck a couple of times we decided to move to mince. We took one day and cooked and packed food for 6 weeks at a time. We would cook loads and loads of veggies and mix it with raw/semi-cooked mince and lungs. Fiddich still seemed to get a reaction to this as well. I may be wrong, but I think there might be traces of gluten in the meat from the grains eaten by the cattle? This worked better as the female had to eat her veggies with her meat! Comparing prices, the beef mince and chicken was fairly similar priced, the chicken just contained a lot of bones that actually made it more expensive.

What got to us was the mess! My whole deep-freezer is stuffed with dog food hahaha!! no space for human food, and I would have to remember to take out the food and then it will be in the zink to defrost and it will be one gooey mess. Being so hot it will attract flies very quickly and if I'm not home to put it in the fridge, it will smell very bad by the time I do get to it. Then the weighing off of the food and everything smelling like mince afterwards :-)

I must admit I'm a big campainer for the raw diet, but if it could be a little less messy it would be great! I think if you have one dog, or a small breed dog it will be much easier, but 4 dogs on the raw diet is a full time job! We decided against putting only the male on the raw diet because (a) it is healthier and (b) it is a receipe for a fight!!

I managed to get a health-food that is guaranteed grain free. The dogs have only been on it for a week, but so far Fiddich is doing great on it. It doesn't contain any perservatives or anything, and is basically a raw diet in pellets. Price-wise it is much the same as cooking, but much less hassle!

All and all, if I only had one dog, I would stay on the raw diet as the benifits really do over shadow the hassle!

I would think the reason the bones started to get stuck was the bone to meat ratio was to high. I've had a few clogging problems with bones in the past, but that was due to too much bone in the diet. Bones, especially that of the Chicken, are very soft and digested easily for dogs. In the chicken thigh there is a long and very sharp bone that “could” cause a problem. 

You should see our utility room with a 4.5kg shoulder of beef defrosting and the blood runs everywhere lol I can imagine how quick the meat would spoil in warmer climates. It takes 2 day here at the minute to defrost a shoulder of beef. That's what is off putting for alot of people, is the time and preparation it takes to do the raw food diet. Especially for first timers as it can be very confusing with alot of information on the internet.

Raw food a few years ago was alot harder to get...now there is places like;


http://www.naturalinstinct.com/ (expensive)

Glad to hear you've found something that finally works for your dogs.


A great post

well done.





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