The BARF diet (bones and raw food) is becoming increasingly popular. Find out why many pet owners are changing and understand the benefits and risks of a raw dog food diet to help you decide whether or not it's right for your Cocker.
The BARF diet (Bones And Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) is also known as the raw dog food diet.
It contains foods similar to those a dog (wolf) would have eaten in the wild and is made up of mainly raw meat and bones, such as:
If raw pork or wild game is eaten it can cause certain parasitic diseases, such as Trichinosis or Pseudo-rabies. You can still feed your dog this type of raw meat, but it's best if both meat and bones are frozen for 3 weeks to kill any parasites or bacteria.
Pork and wild game can be safely eaten if the meat is properly cooked.
Bones one the other hand, should never be cooked as they become brittle and can splinter and choke your dog, or pierce his digestive system.
Your Cocker shouldn't eat just one type of meat. Instead, he should eat a good selection of raw meats to enable him to absorb the different nutritional values of each meat source.
Don't forget to feed your Cocker plenty of organ meat as it's very nutritious. Any offal will do the job, kidney, liver, heart etc. I'd say around 12% of his food should be made up of offal.
The BARF diet can also include fish, however, it's best to avoid raw
salmon as it can carry parasites called flukes. When eaten the flukes attach themselves to the dog's intestines and release bacteria into
the bloodstream which can cause the dog to become quite ill.
Fortunately, the cooking process kills any bacteria that may be present so as long as the fish is cooked, you can safely feed it to your dog.
The BARF diet also includes raw vegetables such as carrots, a few small cubes of raw peeled potato, sweet potato, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, parsnips, peas, celery, asparagus, and broccoli and green beans.
Keep the portions of broccoli to a minimum as too much can give your dog wind or at the very worst, bloating.
Don't forget to add fruit to the diet; blueberries, apples, bananas, melon, strawberries and pears; these provide an excellent nutritional contribution to your dog's raw food diet.
Eggs may be full of protein, but the shells are packed with calcium! Simply crush them down and add them to his food. Alternatively, you can bake batches of them in a hot oven to dry them out before grinding to a powder and sprinkling on his dinner.
Cottage cheese and plain yogurt may also be included in a raw food diet, and are another excellent source of calcium.
Unsalted, plain nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and walnuts, may also be included in the diet as they're an excellent source of fats; however, beware of macadamia nuts as they are listed as one of the foodstuffs which can be poisonous to our dogs in our dangerous foods article.
Herbs, such as parsley, thyme, bay, and rosemary (a natural preservative) may be used to enhance the flavor of your pet's food as well as adding extra nutritional value.
Some say that wolves would have eaten grains albeit indirectly because the grains would have been in the stomach of the animals they ate.
Others believe whole grains (cooked or otherwise) should not be included in a raw food diet.
My take on this is that it's a personal choice. If you want to feed your dog grains, then do so, otherwise there's no need for it.
There are many benefits to feeding your Cocker Spaniel a raw food diet:
With so many good reasons for changing your Cocker Spaniel onto raw food, what are you waiting for?
Why not take a look at some of our raw dog food recipes - they might just inspire you to give it a try!
As with everything else in life, there is a downside to feeding your pet a BARF diet.
If you decide to give raw dog food a trial, here's a few tips:
If you take care to ensure you Cocker Spaniel has a complete and varied diet, there's no reason why it shouldn't be a safe and healthy alternative to commercial dog food.
Because all dogs are different, and have differing nutritional needs, I recommend you have a chat with your vet and ask his advice for your particular pet before changing him on to a BARF diet.
And don't forget, when and if you decide to change over, do it gradually - we don't want any upset tummies do we?
The BARF diet isn't for all dogs, particularly those that eat their food too quickly, without chewing, and are not terribly interested in a leisurely chew on a bone - Max, our Cocker Spaniel, eats so quickly he practically inhales his food, so unfortunately this isn't the diet for him!
If you'd like more information on raw dog food this article by Brennen McKenzie, MA, VMD, entitled Raw Meat and Bone Diets for Dogs: It's Enough to Make You BARF may be just what you're looking for.
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