Canine Nutrition


The "BARF" diet, an acronym for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food “or “Bones And Raw Food”.

A typical BARF diet is made up of 60-80% of raw meaty bones (RMB’s). That is bones with about 50% meat, (e.g. chicken neck, back and wings). The remaining part of the diet consists of 20-40% of fruits and vegetables, offal, eggs and supplements. Some dairy foods may also be added.

The BARF DIET is not a new fad diet. Our canine companions have been eating a raw food diet - naturally & instinctively - for thousands of years.

Commercial pet food companies have only been around for about 100 years. Many of today’s diseases have surfaced since the advent of the processed, grain-based commercial pet foods. The BARF DIET aims to mimic the natural food source of their wild relatives (wolves) and feed our canine companions as nature intended.

Think of it this way: your dog’s digestive system is the same as a wolf. Even though dogs have been bred to look and behave differently from wolves, they still digest food the same way as their cousins. So how does a wolf get their food? Do they scour corn fields? Graze on wheat? Of course not! They rip and tear meat from fresh kill - their teeth were created to work that way. All dogs are the direct descendants of grey wolves, and their dietary needs have remained virtually unchanged to his day.

DNA proves your dog is 99.9% Wolf!

Dogs, like all carnivores, are biologically incapable of fully digesting grains such as corn, wheat and barley. This is because they don’t have an enzyme called ‘amylase’ in their saliva, which helps to break down the starchy carbohydrates. The ingestion of grain and other starchy foods contribute to most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases.

What are Dogs Designed to Eat?

In 1993 dogs & wolves were officially designated as the same species: canis lupus. Their gastro-intestinal systems are identical - uniquely designed to digest entire prey - bones & all! Their stomach environment is very acidic (pH1) - able to dissolve raw meat & bones, and to deal with food-borne bacteria that would overwhelm a human whose stomach is alkaline (pH4). Digestion begins in the stomach (carnivores’ mouths have no digestive enzymes or “grinding’ teeth). Grains (rice, corn, wheat and barley etc) are considered ‘foreign objects’ by the body, and are not readily assimilated. Domestic pets should be getting their carbohydrates in a similar manner to their wild ancestors. Natural Fresh fruits and vegetables provide a natural source of carbohydrates in a more digestible format. Fats (not grains) are your dog’s natural energy source. Their intestinal tract is much shorter than a human’s. Digestion of the raw food takes place quickly (4-8 hours) - thus avoiding putrefaction. (Cooked, grain-based food can take up to 16 hours to digest!). Anatomically, their teeth and jaws are built to pierce and rip (skin/flesh) and crush/shear bone. Being stalkers of prey, their eyes are set toward the front of the skull (typical of carnivores) rather than at the sides (like their herbivore prey).

Digestion and Anatomy of the Canine

For comparison, we will look at the three distinctive types of digestion anatomy in mammals.

Herbivores: have the longest digestive tracts, designed to ferment and process vegetation. Some have multiple stomachs for advanced fermentation to completely break down plant material for better digestion of these foods. These groups of animals have strong, flat molars to grind and break down grasses, and are built for grazing during most of their waking hours. Herbivores depend on vegetation for complete nutrition. They have the ability to break down the cellulose found in plant materials.

Omnivores: have medium length intestines and only one stomach, giving them the ability to consume some vegetation but also to digest animal proteins. Their detention includes flat molars and sharp teeth developed for some grinding and some tearing. This group may eat either plants or animal proteins, but most often eat both. They need both categories of food for complete nutrition. They have less ability to break down cellulose found in vegetables and grains.

Carnivores: have the shortest and simplest digestive tract for ease of digesting animal protein and fat. Dogs fall into this category. Carnivores have sharp, jagged, blade-shaped molars designed for slicing, rather than flat molars designed for grinding. Their jaws cannot go sideways, as in herbivores and omnivores that grind their food by chewing, but are hinged to open widely to swallow large chunks of meat whole. Carnivores have the ability to consume large quantities of food at one time and can rest between meals. This is called ‘gorging’ in the wild and has its place in hunting large game. Carnivores can consume large meals after a hunt and then rest until the next opportunity for a meal. Dogs need animal protein for a complete amino acid profile. They can live without any vegetation (carbohydrates) but also do fine with eating small amounts. They do not have the ability to break down cellulose so plant materials are not easily digested, if at all.

Large amounts of vegetation, grains and fibre are difficult for dogs to digest. With their short and simple digestive tracts, they cannot ferment and digest these foods like herbivores; and to a smaller degree also omnivores. The result for dogs is a much larger stool volume from high grain, high fibre diets.

The canine has a short digestive tract that helps to easily digest animal flesh and fat. The food spends a much longer time in the stomach than for herbivores and omnivores and the stomach has a much higher amount of hydrochloric acid for break-down of animal proteins, bones and fat.

The stomach of a dog (and human) makes industrial strength hydrochloric acid that can dissolve iron. Dogs hold chewed food in their stomachs for 4 to 8 hours after ingestion. The low pH of the gastric juices provides a barrier to pathogens. Only a little food at a time is released in to the intestine, which it passes through quickly. This gives any bacteria that may live through the repeated acid baths little time to colonize and produce gastrointestinal distress.

In humans, on the other hand, the food may pass through the stomach into the intestines in as little as 30 to 60 minutes. The partially digested food may spend as long as 12 to 60 hours in the intestines before it is passed into the colon, and then defecated. This means that the intestines suffer prolonged exposure to whatever germs survive a minimal aid wash in the stomach.

This information demonstrates how dogs can easily digest raw meat and bones and have the ability to destroy harmful bacteria. Nature is wise in her design and provides protection for these carnivores in consuming prey, drinking pond water and eating food stuff contaminated with bacteria. Problems such as salmonella, E Coli and other food borne pathogens are skillfully handled by the extended time in the strongly acidic environment of the stomach. Any surviving pathogens have little opportunity to propagate during their quick transit time though the intestines.

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