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A Raw Pet Food Diet? BARF!

Along with the many different diets and eating programs we find for ourselves, there is an alternative way to feed our pets besides the usual packaged commercial pet foods we find in our grocery and pet stores. This alternative is called the raw pet food diet.I wanted to look into this way of feeding our pets and check out the pros and cons.

The raw pet food diet is not anew idea. It’s been around for quiet a while and its advocates say that because it most closely matches what our animals would eat in the wild, it’s good for their health and well-being. A study often cited is one that was conducted by Dr. Francis Pottenger from 1932 to1942. In this study, he used more than 900 cats to show the effects of a cooked vs. raw diet on the health of cats.

His study concluded that an all-raw food diet of meat, milk, and cod liver oil produced the healthiest cats with the healthiest offspring with the fewest defects.

Some believe that today’s over-processed, heated, colored, preserved pet foods do not provide the best nutrition for our cats and dogs. In fact, they think these commercial pet foods, which are higher in carbohydrates than cats or dogs need in their diets, cause a number of health problems, including obesity, diseases, weak immune systems, and birth defects.

The raw food diet, referred to as the Bones And Raw Food (BARF) diet,suggests feeding raw muscle and organ meat from chicken, beef, and lamb, raw bones (poultry neck and back), and adding some supplements such as cod liver oil, vitamin E, enzymes, and Taurine.

There are many other important supplements that cats and dogs need which would also be added, based on which animal you are feeding, their health,age, whether they are pregnant, etc.

If you’re thinking of feeding your pet the BARF diet, you should take a trip to your vet to get a thorough checkup to make sure your pet is healthy. Then, consult with your vet about the possibility of feeding your pet a raw food diet. Get their thoughts about it, and also conduct your own investigation on the subject. There are plenty of books you can purchase or resources online that you can look up.


If you decide to try the raw pet food diet, you should get high-quality, fresh raw meat from a trusted butcher rather than pre-packaged meat in a grocery store. You should use the meat immediately, or freeze it,which can give the added benefit of killing bacteria. You should use safe and sanitary handling of raw meat and bones, including disinfecting all utensils and cutting boards used, and throwing away any uneaten meat after half an hour.

Again, there are books and online resources you can use to find many BARF recipes,including those that mix in supplements to ensure proper nutrition and health. Some people like to add fresh fruits and vegetables to the BARF diet, but others see it as unnecessary since cats and dogs do not seek out those foods naturally in the wild.

If you don’t have time to prepare all the meals for your pet,there are pre-packaged, dehydrated or frozen, raw meat meals available for purchase.

As with any issue,there are people on both sides, with some people citing the dangers of bacteria such as e-coli and salmonella that could be in the raw meat. In addition to the bacteria being a risk for the animal, humans can also be exposed to the same risk. Some veterinarians do not endorse a raw food diet because of the potential life-threatening nature of these bacteria.

There are also those who say that comparing wild dogs and cats with our domesticated pets is not valid, that our pets can’t digest raw foods the way wild animals can. Raw bones especially are thought to be a health risk. (Note: Raw bones are soft and chewy. When bones are cooked is when they become brittle and can splinter, which is very dangerous.)

As with anything to do with the health and well-being of your pet, it’s up to you to research what you think will be best, and also consult with your veterinarian about the subject. Your pets depend on you to make the right decisions for them.

For a time I considered the raw food diet for my dog Storm, but continued to feed a holistic dog food. I have not totally ruled out the raw food diet in the future, but for now I feed a very high quality commercial dog food which is low carb, has quality human grade meats and grains, probiotics, and many other beneficial ingredients.

Research for yourself and make an educated decision.

References:
http://cats.about.com/cs/nutrition/a/rawfooddiet.htm
http://www.living-foods.com/articles/rawpetfood.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Pottenger
http://www.healthypet.com/library_view.aspx?ID=121
http://pettogethers.com/HOMEMADE.asp

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