I have two Norfolk Terrier bitches, five and three years old. Both of my dogs are conformation champions and participate in performance events such as earthdog and agility. They are active and exercised daily but, like many dogs, tend to put on weight over the winter months.
Last winter a number of things happened to make me curious about the so-called raw diet, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF). I began to hunt my dogs and realized they needed to be in better shape to dig and to be able to fit in to very small holes. In agility, both bitches were slow and not jumping all that well.
My instructor told me to take some weight off the terriers to see if that would help. I also viewed a lecture given by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, the major proponent of the raw diet for dogs. BARF consists of feeding raw meaty bones and ground vegetables; no kibble is fed at all!
A variety of meats, vegetables, and other additives such as eggs and yogurt are incorporated in the diet and after several weeks of reading and talking to people whose dogs were on this diet, I decided to switch both of mine.
Within a short period of time I noticed positive changes, the first of which was in their stools. They became less in volume, the smell and firmness was consistently better. The dogs enjoyed the meat and, especially, chewing on the raw bones.
It now takes them longer to finish a meal and, unlike the kibble, they now have to chew the bones which is keeping their teeth much cleaner.
The vitamins and minerals in the bone marrow give their coat a shine and has helped to moisten their skin. Before starting them on this diet, I noticed flakes on their skin and they were scratching. Their skin has cleared up and no more scratching. The biggest change is with their weight. They have both lost more than two pounds each and their waists have now have a nice outline. Muscle tone is good, and they seem to have more energy.
My dogs have been on the BARF diet for about a year. Both began this agility season with a bang, earning their novice agility titles in Standard and Jumpers. We have been hunting and they are able to fit in more holes and have the stamina to dig and run through the high grass ... not to mention being able to turn around easier in the holes.
The diet does take some time to prepare, but once you have a system you can make and freeze enough food for a week at a time. The nice thing about our dogs is their size; we do not need to make a large amount of food. To figure out how much to feed your dog, you take the ideal weight for your dog and you feed 3% of that a day. My dogs eat 1.4 ounces of food twice a day.
The ratio of raw meaty bone to vegetables should be about 60/40. The challenge with our small dogs is to find a variety of raw meaty bones to feed. I use chicken necks, turkey necks, pork ribs, lamb ribs, veal and pork necks. Most need to be cut smaller. My dogs enjoy all the bones and I watch them use their teeth, front paws and even neck muscles to rip and chew the food.
If you do not like the idea of your dog eating the raw bones, there are numerous companies such as BARF and Bravo that sell rolls of frozen meats with the bone ground into them. You can even buy them with the vegetables added, along with organ meats. You can use the frozen food alone, or add your own pureed vegetables and make a meatloaf type food.
What has worked for me is to use a meatloaf type mix for breakfast. I use one-half of the frozen BARF rolls, and then in a food processor, I mix vegetables and fruits such as spinach, carrots, peppers (not green), cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, beets, turnip, bananas, watermelon, or any other fruit or vegetable on hand at my supermarket's salad bar.
I usually buy about $2.00 worth of vegetables to use for the week's worth of food. I add the pureed vegetables to the defrosted meat, along with an egg, some bone meal, brewer's yeast, garlic, and some ground organ meats. I mix that all up in a large bowl and then I measure out 1.4 ounces and put it in small Rubbermaid containers to freeze. I make enough for a week, then freeze, so I can just take out two containers a day for their breakfast. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but I can do this in about 15 minutes now.
For dinner, I use the bones. When I am shopping I just look for ribs, necks and other meats. Bring them home and cut them into 1.4 ounce pieces, lay them on a cookie sheet, and freeze for a couple of hours.
Then, I take the frozen bones and put them in a Ziploc bag, taking out four or five nights-worth, put it in a Rubbermaid container, and store in the freezer taking out enough each day for the two dogs. Using the containers makes it really easy for someone else to feed them if I am not home. Each portion is pre-measured and can be emptied directly into the dog's dishes.
To learn more about the diet and where to buy frozen meats, go to the BARF website at http://www.barfworld.com. There you can find distributors in our area and literature on the diet. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions. Lini Federici: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's Note: There isn't a subject much more controversial than nutrition when it comes to dogs. Many people find the BARF diet, or variations thereof, highly successful. Remember the bones that are a part of this type of diet are RAW not cooked!
ANTIC, June, 2004
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