Recently – among humans – the Paleo diet (initially popularized by researcher Loren Cordain, and later by Ray Audette in his book Neanderthin) has become very popular. The diet is based on the idea that all animal species have a basic genetic diet that is “biologically appropriate” to that species.
Keeping with a diet appropriate for a species should promote health and alleviate those illnesses caused by violating that species' basic dietary rules. At least, that's the theory.
So if it does work for humans (and many, many Paleo diet adherents report results in glowing terms), shouldn't it also work for our canine companions?
The raw feeding protocol is known as barf (yeah, I know, pretty yucky), which officially stands for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”. (In more common layman's terms it's also known as “Bones and Raw Food”). You may also see or hear it referenced as RMBD, or “raw meat Based Diet”.
Here's the skinny on BARF/RMBD (pun intended J):
1. Dogs are essentially wolves in disguise.
Regardless of how cute and cuddly your little pooch is, you need to consider him/her as nothing more than a “juvenile wolf”. (The scientific term is “neotony”, which basically means “retaining juvenile characteristics into adulthood”). If you strip away thousands of years of domestication and breeding, and ignore the cuteness factor, what remains is a primarily a raw meat eating predator.
Although wolves can and sometimes do eat non-meat meals (after all, living in the wild can be very unpredictable), their primary diet has always been meat. Wolves and their canine descendants are far more carnivore than omnivore.
And, except for the very rare situation when a wolf consumes an animal carcass left after a wildfire, the meat is always raw and fresh.
2. A veterinarian developed BARF as a healthy, high energy diet.
In 1993 a veterinarian named ian billinghurst came up with the concept after studying the feeding protocols for racing greyhounds and sled dogs. These dog breeds, who have extreme health and energy requirements, have long been fed diets largely comprised of raw meats and vegetables.
Billinghurst reasoned that – although the common family dog may not have the extreme energy requirements of those hard working breeds – perhaps the other apparent health benefits could be obtained by mimicking their dietary habits.
3. Raw foods contain essential nutrients missing from commercial dog foods
One nutrient that is missing from most commercial dog food products, and is present in raw foods, are enzymes. Enzymes (and co-enzymes – AKA vitamins), help the digestive system break down and assimilate the nutrients in food. Unfortunately, cooking and over-processing destroys these nutrients long before you or your dog can even utilize them.
If you rely on commercially prepared dogfood it often becomes necessary to supplement with pills or powders to replace some of these nutrients – especially the enzymes. Not so with raw dog food.
Generally, your dog's fur coat will become shinier and regain its natural luster. This has long been noticed by dog owners who have fed their dogs raw eggs. What they didn't know is that it's not so much the egg that's the key, but rather the fact that it is raw.
BARF has also been credited with improving undesired patchy fur loss (a condition often witnessed in Poodles).
If your dog has dry, itchy skin you might want to give raw food a try. The natural oils in the skin seem to get a boost when the food is served raw.
Hot spots normally vanish within the first 30 days of feeding raw dog food. BARF is a natural immune system booster.
Bones – especially of the raw variety – serve as natural toothbrushes for dogs. Gnawing on a raw bone removes plaque from teeth and provides a gentle gum massage.
If the bones are cooked they tend to becomes brittle, which limits the effectiveness as a tooth cleaning device. Brittle bones can also irritate your dog's stomach and intestinal tract, so make sure those bones are served raw!
Here's an article that reveals more details about which bones are safe to feed: Are Raw Bones Dangerous for Your Dog?
This is important for high-energy breeds that are dependent on running and chasing activities. Many dog owners who have switched to a raw dog food protocol report much higher energy levels in their dogs.
If you are also an active individual (running, cycling, hiking, etc.), and you wish your pooch could share more of your adventurous spirit, maybe a raw food diet could do you both some good.
8. Less waste and smaller poops
Because they are processed, most commercial dog foods include lots of fillers – like grains – in order to provide “bulk” in your dog's diet. These fillers are not easily digested and have to go somewhere, right? So, they wind up all over your lawn as large, undigested poop piles.
Raw food is more completely utilized by your dog's digestive system. So, poops become smaller, firmer, and are more easily “expelled” by the pooch (straining is reduced).
Now that you see the benefits of raw feeding, you probably want to learn more. It looks easy, but there's a few things you need to learn before embarking on such a dramatic lifestyle change.
Here's a great resource to discover much more than I've covered here – and most importantly – how to do it right:
https://www.thegoodboy.co.nz/. (Highly recommended).
Until next time…
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