The Biologically Appropriate (or Bones And) Raw Food (BARF) diet was developed to improve companion animal health (Billinghurst, n.d. cited in BARF Australia, n.d.a). It is based on the theory that a diet most similar to the ancestors of companion animals (e.g. wolves) is the most appropriate for them and prevents health problems (BARF World, n.d.b).
The natural diet theory is that evolution did not change physiological functioning of companion animals from their ancestors (BARF World, n.d.b). However, it is now generally accepted that dogs evolved to live around humans and therefore their digestive systems have evolved to digest human foods including starches from agricultural products (Coppinger & Coppinger, 2001).
Dogs' immune systems might be improved through exposure to bacteria (BARF World, n.d.b).
Majority of owners cite improvements in health, appetite, digestion, bones, immune system, coat, teeth, weight, even curing cancer (Leflame et. al., 2008 and BARF World, n.d.a).
Raw bones are said to be safer to chew than cooked bones as they splinter less (Rawfed.com, n.d.).
(Although I was unable to find empirical studies to backup the above claims.)
Can be a very healthy diet if it is well balanced and all necessary nutrients are included (COAPE, 2014).
Bacteria on meats (e.g. chicken) can cause illness to pets and humans (Finley et al., 2007 and Joffe & Schlesinger, 2002).
The diet could also provide too many vitamins and/or minerals. A diet high in meat is naturally high in phosphorous, too much causes nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism leading to osteodystrophy (Kawaguchi et. al., 1993). Too much liver causes hypervitaminosis of vitamin A leading to bone degeneration (Maddock et al., 1949).
There is increasing evidence of oesophageal foreign bodies in animals fed BARF, especially in smaller breeds (Rodríguez-Alarcón, et al., 2010 and Spillman, 2007 cited in Rodríguez-Alarcón, et al., 2010).
Too much protein and too little carbs in a diet can lead to reactivity/irritability/aggression, loss of house training, lack of stamina, mal- or overnutrition (COAPE, 2014; Strong, 2009; and Dobenecker et al., 1998).
A natural raw food (BARF) diet can be difficult to implement well as many factors need to be considered for adequate nutrition of companion animals which have evolved to fit around the human ecological niche.
BARF Australia, (n.d.). Home. [online] Available at: http://www.barfaustralia.com/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2015].
BARF World, (n.d.a). Testimonials. [online] Available at: http://barfmissioncontrol.com/testimonials.php [Accessed 19 Jul. 2015].
BARF World, (n.d.b). Evolutionary Nutrition. [online] Available at: http://www.barfworld.com/html/barf_diet/Evolutionary_nutrition.php [Accessed 19 Aug. 2015].
COAPE. (2014). Advanced diploma in the fundamentals of canine and feline behaviour therapy: Module 3. South Africa: COAPE, p.3-7.
Coppinger, R. and Coppinger, L. (2001). Dogs: A new understanding of canine origin, behavior, and evolution. New York: Scribner, pp.233-235.
Dobenecker, B., Kienzle, E., Köstlin, R. and Matis, U. (1998). Mal- and overnutrition in puppies with or without clinical disorders of skeletal development. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, [online] 80(1-5), pp.76-81. Available at: http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ulrike_Matis/publication/230115729_Mal_and_overnutrition_in_puppies_with_or_without_clinical_disorders_of_skeletal_development/links/54d223ac0cf25ba0f042676a.pdf [Accessed 19 Jul. 2015].
Finley, R., Aramini, J., Vandermeer, M., Popa, M., Litman, M. and Reid-Smith, R. (2007). The risk of salmonellae shedding by dogs fed salmonella-contaminated commercial raw food diets. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, [online] 48(1), pp.69–75. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1716752/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2015].
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Maddock, C., Wolbach, S. and Maddock, S. (1949). Hypervitaminosis A in the dog. The Journal of Nutrition, [online] 39(1), pp.117-137. Available at: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/39/1/117.short [Accessed 19 Jul. 2015].
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Rodríguez-Alarcón, C., Usón, J., Beristain, D., Rivera, R., Andrés, S. and Pérez, E. (2010). Breed as risk factor for oesophageal foreign bodies. Journal of Small Animal Practice, [online] 51(6), pp.357-357. Available at: http://www.uacj.mx/DGPDI/Documents/Documentos_PIFI/3.3/ICB/3.3_ICB_Real_56.doc.pdf [Accessed 19 Jul. 2015].
Strong, V. (2009). Applied canine nutrition: The implications of diet on behaviour. COAPE, pp.3.
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