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 Spaniel.
BARF stands for 'Bones And Raw Food' or 'Biologically Appropriate Raw Food' and 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.
Pork and wild game can only be safely eaten if the meat is cooked correctly. This will kill off any parasites or bacteria within the meat.
On the other hand, bones 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 variety of raw flesh to help him absorb the different nutritional values of each meat source.
Don't forget to feed your Cocker plenty of organ meat (offal).
Apart from being very tasty, it's very nutritious too. Around 12% of his food should be made up of offal. Any will do the job; kidney, liver, heart etc.
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 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, small cubes of raw peeled potato, carrot, sweet potato, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, parsnips, peas, celery, asparagus, and broccoli and green beans.
Max enjoys raw red pepper, and he simply loves courgette (however, I always cook the courgette - 4 mins in the microwave).
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 them to a powder and sprinkling them on his dinner.
Cottage cheese and plain yoghurt 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 flavour 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, do so; otherwise, there's no need.
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 look at some of our raw dog food recipes - they might just inspire you to give it a try!
If you decide to give raw dog food a trial, here are a few tips:
If you ensure your 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 different nutritional needs, I recommend you 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 gobbles his food (he practically inhales it!), so, unfortunately, this isn't the diet for him!
If you're not convinced about a raw food diet for dogs, you'll find many healthy diets using cooked food - see our articles on natural and organic dog food for more information.
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.
Photo Credits: Barf Diet
1. kolbz at https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/spoilt-dog-gm172876348-6663952
2. Noel Abejo - https://www.freeimages.com/photo/kipper-1381690
3. Juplife at Flickr.com