It is common to find photos or texts on social networks of those who presume to have their pets on a diet that has spread rapidly called BARF.This stands for Bones and Raw Food. Or, failing that, Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
This is nothing more than including uncooked animal products in the diet of domesticated dogs and cats, namely: meat, organ meats, bones, milk or eggs.The proportion would be 60% to 80% in the aforementioned products and between 20% and 40% of fruits, legumes and vegetables.
Now: how recommended is this BARF diet? Are there scientific studies that support it? What kind of consequences could the animal suffer if it is under this eating regimen?
The positive stands out
Luis Barrientos, a veterinarian at the San Francisco de Asis Veterinary Clinic (a member of Medismart), indicated that there is scientific evidence that supports the apparent benefits of the BARF diet.
Pet owners (or responsible people) argue that BARF allows animals to feed more naturally, without additives or chemicals.There is a sector that distrusts some food brands by putting forward arguments such as: why if they are made with by-products that humans do not eat, why should they be given to animals?
Barrientos detailed some advantages of this diet based on customer testimonials:
Palatability: Pets generally love this diet because of its natural flavor and crunchy texture.
Digestion: The BARF diet more closely resembles the natural diet of dogs’ ancestors, which may result in better digestion and nutrient absorption.
Coat Health: Many dog owners have reported that their pets have shinier, healthier coats after switching to the BARF diet. This may be due to the greater availability of essential nutrients in raw foods.
Reducing hypersensitivity problems: By eliminating processed ingredients and additives from the diet, some dogs with food allergies or sensitivities may experience a decrease in their symptoms.
Reduced recurrence of tartar formation: Chewing raw foods and bones can help keep dogs’ teeth cleaner, reducing tartar formation and dental problems.
However, numerous publications and studies indicate that eating raw food increases the risk of microorganisms colonizing pets. This would not only affect the animal but will become a source of infection for people.
One such study was conducted in 2019 called Raw Diets for Dogs and Cats: A Review, with Special Reference to Microbiological Hazards, which is available from the United States National Library of Medicine.This concludes the work published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association:
“There is currently no strong evidence or plausible mechanisms identified for many of the claimed benefits (with the BARF diet). “There are documented risks associated with raw feeding, primarily malnutrition (inexpert formulation and testing of diets) and infections affecting pets and/or family members.
“Studies in Europe and North America have consistently found salmonella species in a proportion of samples, typically from fresh and frozen commercial diets. “Another emerging problem is the risk of introducing antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. Raw pet foods often exceed hygienic Enterobacteriaceae count thresholds.
“These bacteria often encode resistance to critically important antibiotics, such as extended-spectrum cephalosporins, and raw-fed pets create a high risk of shedding these resistant bacteria.”
The Costa Rican veterinarian added other points to consider:
Requires professional balance: The BARF diet must be prepared and balanced by a professional or canine nutritionist to ensure that it meets all of your dog’s nutritional needs.
Variable tolerance: Not all dogs tolerate the BARF diet well. Some may experience digestive problems such as indigestion, enteritis or gastritis.
Bones: Including bones in the BARF diet can be risky. There is a danger of bones splintering when chewed, which could cause serious problems. Among them acute abdomen, megacolon or intestinal lacerations. Although these incidents are not common, it is important to be aware of this risk.
Price: This diet is usually a little more expensive than common concentrates.
The Spanish site Consumer explains, for its part, that pets that live with humans “have incorporated various genetic changes. Among them the ability to digest starch or changes in fat metabolism. These are aspects that are considered crucial in domestication.”
What to do then?
Barrientos points out that if pet owners have questions about the BARF diet, they can consider the following:
High-quality foods: Opt for high-end concentrates that are formulated with quality ingredients and are grain-free. These foods are typically rich in high-quality protein and lack additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors. These products are often found in veterinary clinics or specialty pet food stores.
Avoid foods with grains: Some studies suggest a possible association between the consumption of grains, such as corn, and an increased risk of cancer in dogs. Therefore, it is good practice to look for foods that do not contain grains in their ingredient list.
Consult a Veterinarian: Before making any major changes to your dog’s diet, it is crucial to speak with a veterinarian. Every dog is unique, and an animal health professional can offer specific recommendations based on your pet’s individual needs.
Remember that nutrition is a fundamental aspect for your dog’s health. Choosing the right diet is an important decision that must be made carefully and under the supervision of an expert.