People have a lot of fears when it comes to starting the BARF feeding. Some of them are afraid of bowel obstruction, another ones are terrified of the devour and the third ones might be worried that the food does not include everything that their dog needs. However, generally the start of the new diet goes smoothly. If you feel insecure, the best way to learn about BARF is to ask help from a friend who is familiar with the barf feeding. If you don’t have a friend who knows about barf feeding, you can rely on the literature about BARF or participate in the internet discussions, as long as you remember to evaluate advices with healthy criticism. Also the resellers of the raw food are very happy to help you.
The idea of BARF is that the dog’s nutrition consists mainly of raw bones and cartilage. The share of the main ingredients should be around 60-70 %, when the rest consists of meat, fish and organs. The diet imitates dog’s natural nutrition in the wild, which included mainly whole, small animals. You can also give your dog some vegetable puree in larger amounts if given only occasionally or in very small quantities on daily basis.
If you follow the above mentioned ratio between the bone and the meat which are from at least three different animals, the food will provide your dog everything needed. In this sense, the dog will do just fine with the meat of pork, beef and chicken. The larger variety is not harmful for the dog – vice versa – but the variation of three animals is sufficient.
Which bones should I start with?
The most common question is if the bones are really safe to give, and what kinds of bones are good in the beginning. Majority of the dog owners have heard rumors that you should never give your dog any bird bones. This is completely true if we are talking about cooked bones. Cooked bones should never be given to a dog, because heating makes them shatter into sharp pieces, which can harm the body of the dog. In addition the bone material becomes much harder, and it does not digest the same way after cooking.
Bones and cartilage should be given as raw
The parts of chicken (wings, necks, invertebrates) and softer cartilage are excellent bones for the beginner. There is also minced version of wings in case you are worried that the dog will gobble. You can also try crushed bones, which usually consists of ground beef and pork bones. These bones are also good for smaller dogs, and if your dog has many teeth removed bones can be replaced with grinded ones.After this you can add pork ribs and turkey wings to the diet. If the intake of those bones is going well, you can continue to almost any bones. Note that eating bones takes a bit effort. Dogs learn to eat bones surprisingly fast, but especially larger bones can be difficult to chew in the beginning. Continue giving bones for practice, and the dog will learn how to eat them.
Vomiting pieces of bones and having a loose stool
If the dog has eaten only dry food before BARF, it is very likely that the dog will vomit bone fragments in the beginning – regardless it has gobbled up or not. The larger pieces or harder bone the dog has received, the higher the probability the dog will vomit. This is not dangerous – it is completely natural until the body learns to digest the bone material. The main reason for vomiting is that dog’s body is not yet producing stomach acids strong enough to melt a bone, and the material will not digest at first. The vomiting will stop within a week if it occurs at all.
Another possible phenomenon of the initiation is diarrhea. This will also past in a week, and it’s not dangerous for the dog. Body of the dog needs some time to get used to the new diet, and both, vomiting and diarrhea usually stops very soon.
How much should I give raw food? And how can I be sure that the amount is right?
The amount of the food is very individual and depends of the activity level, temperature of the habitat etc. Mathematically dogs need food 2–5 % of their bodyweight per day. Thus, the food portion for 10 kg weight dog should be 200–500 g per day. The amount may seem very small compared to dry food, but meat and bones are full of energy in much more compact form!
You can start for example with 2,5 % of the bodyweight. This means that you should give 250 g food per day to a dog who weighs 10 kg. At least 60 % (about 150 g) of this amount should consist of bone and cartilage, and the rest (100 g) should be meat, fish or organs. This does not mean the meal has to be exactly the same every day unless the owner desires so. It is possible to give 200 g of meat at one day, and 300 g of bones or cartilage the following day. The key is that the amount of food is balanced in weekly level. To figure out the right amount of food, you must follow your dog. If the dog is gaining weight, the amount of the food should be reduced. If the dog loses weight, increase the food portion. Consistency of stool also provides you information of the proper amount of food. If the stool is solid or a bit hard, the amount of food is appropriate. Loose stool after dog has already got familiar with raw food usually means the dog gets more food than the body is able to digest.
What should I do if the dog devours the food?
Especially dogs with dry food background tent to eat the food in such hurry, the gobbled large bone fragments lead into vomiting after feeding. This is not dangerous even it may seem rough for the owner. For example French Bulldog can swallow a whole chicken wing without any harm at all: body of the dog has no trouble to digest the wing. Dog’s body is created to swallow big pieces, but there are few ’tricks’ you can do if the dog devours exceedingly:
- Stay calm while feeding the dog. If your family has more than a one dog, it is likely that the competition will lead to binge eating. Wait until the dog is calm before giving the food, and if possible, make sure they all have space to eat. Make sure they will not steal from each other. Dogs will also calm down after they learn this treat is a daily privilege.
- You can start the raw feeding from the hand but watch out your fingers. Some dogs are careful with the hands, but some are not. This is only a matter of teaching the dog but it can be a painful road. Some of the dogs refuse to bite the bone at all as long as it is in a human hand.
- Feed your dog with bones that are too large to swallow as whole. In this sense puppies are easier since they are still small themselves. Adult, big dog will require more creativity: for example big cartilage or beef bovine are large enough that even Great Dane has difficulties to devour them. Trotters are also great option since they include tough skin, which makes it almost impossible to gobble extremely large pieces at the time.
- Feed the bones frozen so them are harder and more difficult to devour.
- Chicken wings, necks and studs are good bones in the beginning because they consist mainly of cartilage and bone, and even if the dog manages to swallow them as whole, they are easy to digest.
What if BARF-feeding brings up some unexpected problems?
The best way is to turn to an experienced friend who knows about barf feeding. If you don’t know anyone who is experienced, you can talk to the reseller or read experiences of other BARF feeders in the internet. However, remember to evaluate internet based advices with criticism.