What is Raw Dog Food?

What is Fresh Dog Food, Raw Dog Food and BARF??

It’s called lots of things – fresh dog food, raw dog food or even BARF! The acronym BARF dog food was coined by the Australian Billanhurst and stands for Bones and Raw Food (also Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). They all mean the same thing to the dog, a biologically appropriate meal based on the fact that dogs are carnivores and they thrive on a fresh meat and bone diet.

Why Feed Raw Dog Food?

Studies show, when left to their own devices and free of human influence, dogs pursue a fresh meat diet. They are scavenging carnivores. They eat small animals like rabbits, rodents, birds, frogs, anything with a face really. And they love a bit of carcass, which they find with their extra big noses. Their teeth, acidic gut, physiology and short, rapid digestive system are those of a meat eater.

A funny quirk in dogs is that if you feed them fruit or vegetables as pups they will actively seek those items later in life. If you feed them dry food when young they will eat dry food when they’re older. If you feed them meat they will want meat. This is why vegetarians can feed their dogs all veg as pups resulting in their dogs “loving” veg when older but this says nothing of it’s long term suitability to the animal. Studies show that dogs do not eat this material when humans are not around. Studies now support this theory and this diet.

Did you know that no dry food company has ever compared their products to a group of normal, fresh fed dogs? Don’t you think this is strange? When they say “scientifically proven” the manufacturer compared one group of dry fed dogs fed Product X to another group of dogs fed Product Y. Imagine this as the basis for the breast versus bottled milk debate?!

But other groups have compared dry and raw fed dogs. In 2003 a top veterinary laboratory found that fresh meat-fed dogs are clinically proven to be significantly healthier than dry fed dogs (ANTECH 2003).

Also in 2003, a study of 500 dogs found  that animals fed with home made food (based on similar food as to the family) lived to an average of 13.1 years whereas animals fed with canned industrial food lived to an average of 10.4 years (Lippert and Sapy 2003). A meat based diet has also been shown to benefit kidney function in dogs (O’Connor and Summerill 1976) and improve behaviour (Mugford 1987).

Raw Dog Food Will Result in Major Benefits…

A raw meat diet is full of fresh, high-quality protein. Thus the first physical change will be in the coat, as lots of fresh meat protein is needed to feed a thick, lush coat. Next, their physique will change. Protein is essential to organs, skin, joints and, of course, muscle!

Think about human weightlifters and bodybuilders. They eat meat and veg to build those muscles. Not 50% cereal!

If you want a lean, toned dog you need to reduce the carbs and up the amount of good quality protein they are getting. Cutting out carb-based dry food is central to this.

9/10 dogs have gum disease by three years of age. 9/10 dogs are dry fed. This is not a coincidence.

Raw feeding improves dental hygiene and reduces bad breath by reducing sugar fed to the dog (and they might now get a few raw, meaty bones, which are vital to a healthy mouth in dogs).

As raw food is low in salt, which is good news for kidneys, raw fed pets will drink less, meaning they will pee less, which makes house training easier and there will be less feces as fresh food is so digestible!!!

Sounds like a snake oil of a promise, doesn’t it? All we ask is that you try it for a week or two and tell us we’re wrong. You will never, ever go back.

What Exactly do Raw Diets Contain?

Feeding a dog is as easy as feeding oneself, just more meat! Dogs need a diet roughly based on 5:1:1, which is, 5 parts meat on the bone (or mince with 10% bone in it): 1 part fresh organ meat (liver, kidney, heart, spleen, with liver being the most important) and 1 part cooked vegetables. This ratio can vary to completely excluding vegetable matter from the dog’s life, in the correct belief they are all-meat eaters.

Most raw dog foods are based on some version of the above formula. They can vary a little and that’s fine, as long as the meat content is up and some organ and bone is getting in there, your dog will be tip top.

Your Ready-Made Raw Dog Food Options…

Ready-made raw dog foods are the easiest option for raw newbies as they are convenient, ready-to-go, taking all the fear out of it. The best kind we know of are the organic products such as Paleo Ridge. Happier meat makes for healthier pets. Their products are chunky so you can actually see the meat, and where your money is going. After all, your dog needs meat so you don’t want to be wasting your money on ground up carcass! You can find a great selection of Paleo Ridge and other ready-made meals in store and online at Pet Parlour Terenure.

Everything your dog needs is in these products but you can add in what you like on top, dinner leftovers, some half-priced meat you found in the supermarket or butchers, a tin of sardines, an egg, a raw meaty bone, whatever! Variety is the spice of life.

A little veg prepared correctly (cooked / steamed / pureed) can offer the dog some fibre as well as some valuable phytonutrients. Some people add in the likes of oats too (boiled or soaked porridge), which is fine in small amounts, certainly a cheap way to bulk it up, though besides sighthounds, dog’s do not need carbs in their diet.

As long as the base is good, then you adding in a few bits is fine! But remember, he’s a meat eater and doesn’t need plant material as a rule. Try keep it meat in so far as possible.

DIY Raw Dog Food

People are terrified to feed their dogs themselves, as if they were somehow more complicated than their own kids! There’s nothing complicated about it, it’s made seem that way to remove your power. The truth is there’s no such thing as a “complete” meal. It’s a fabrication of the dry food business. If we asked you how much protein you gave the kids last week, could you tell us? Do you know what their RDA of calcium is?! Of course not! And yet we’re all doing ok. We know we should be eating as much fresh veg as possible, and we do our best.

So, if you need to save more money you might consider making it yourself from scratch. For DIY dog food you can pick up your ingredients separately from anyone selling meat such as your local supermarket. They may have a brilliant reduced-price meat sections. Ask them when they get their chicken etc in and pop in the night before. You might find a half-priced box of chicken things, half priced fish, whatever! Or pop into your local butchers. Buy some bits and then ask what’s in the bin. Many good pet shops now have access to many suitable products Ask in store at The Pet Parlour for details.

Making it yourself is easy and it will cut your food bill in half. After all, carnivores are expensive animals to feed.

Generally giant dog owners and multidog owners eventually end up going down the DIY route. For more on how to prepare raw dog food please ask in store or go to the Raw FAQ section on!

Power Additions

Garlic – many are worried about using fresh garlic but trust us when we say this is one of the most beneficial things you can include in your dog’s diet. Garlic is in the onion family and onions are dangerous but garlic contains hardly any of the dangerous stuff (thiosulphate). Half a clove per 10kg of body weight every second day is more than fine. Grind up fine and mix into their food, it is a powerful antioxidant, great for the organs and ,fleas and worms don’t like it either!

Cod liver oil – as good for them as it is for us, full of the most important omega 3’s. Avoid generic “fish oil”. Dose according to body size.

Coconut oil – add in a small dollop of raw, virgin organic coconut oil now and again. Brilliant for you and them. Their coats will shin.

Blueberries – if you’re going to feed them fruit then a few blueberries are probably the best. Choc full of B complex, their brains will thank you.

Sardines – whole and raw are best! Freeze first for a week or two (fish can contain worms where the normal land-meat sector does not, freezing kills worms). And don’t worry about the bones! If you have to feed the canned type, don’t use the type in sunflower oil. Tins of mussels are great too!

Raw eggs – incredible food on all levels, great protein, great fats. One a day is fine for a collie. Give them the shell as well, if they’ll eat it (calcium and trace minerals).

Full Fat Probiotic Yoghurt – dogs love it and it’s great for tums!

Do not feed

Wheat based foods, cows milk, onions, grapes (or raisins), chocolate, excessive fat, old vegetables,

Is Raw Meat Not Dangerous for Them/Us?

The human food chain is tightly controlled, reducing the possibility of pathogens and parasites, but not eliminating them, that is why we humans need to cook it. Dogs on the other hand are scavenging carnivores.. They are not susceptible to meat pathogens such as Salmonella and E.coli, in the same way that we are. Think of a dog that gets a nice meaty bone, eats half of it, then buries it and digs up that stinking thing up to a week later for a chew. Yet they don’t get sick.

Their saliva is laced with lysozyme, making their mouth an extremely hostile environment for invading bacteria and they have stomach acids of pH1 (more than ten times lower than ours). Your dog is covered.

Is your concern with your kids? Studies show that both raw and dry food contain Salmonella as both contain meat (Strohmeyer et al. 2006). That’s a fact. Dogs fed either diet have been shown to pass Salmonella in their poo. That’s also a fact. Thus, dogs on either diet should be cleaned up after. The difference is, to date, there has not been a single incidence of Salmonella poisoning ever recorded from a raw-fed dog owner, and there are now millions of us.

Not one case.

However, the same cannot be said for dry food. In the last 10 years there have been more than 20 colossal recalls of dry food for Salmonella, and that is before we include the likes of toxic mold such as aflatoxin and vomitoxin, which raw food does not contain. What’s more, humans are constantly getting poisoned by dry food (Schottea et al. 2007, Reinberg 2008, Behravesh et al. 2010, Imanishi et al. 2012), usually children under 2yrs of age. Is it becuse dry feeders are more complacent? Probably? Is it because they are poorly educated as to the true dangers? Almost certainly.

You should take care with any meat-containing products. Treat raw dog food as you would any other meat. Do not accept bad smelling products. These are dangerous. Raw dog food lives in a tub in the fridge on the bottom shelf. Wash surfaces after handling. Your dog’s mouth is clean after a meal (anti-bacterial saliva) but you must always assume poo is hazardous. Dry or raw fed, please pick it up daily to avoid children getting hurt.

How Much Raw Dog Food Do They Need?

An adult dog on the average fresh meat diet will eat 2.5% – 3% of their body weight per day. So, a 7 kilogram adult Westie will require 175g – 210g of fresh dog food per day (1% of 7kg is 70g multiplied by 2.5 or 3). If the dog is a little heavy or a bit lazy? Then feed them a little less. Well exercised? Then feed them a little more!

For a more accurate assessment of a dog’s needs, particularly pups (who need a lot more food as a percentage of their body weight) talk to a staff member at The Pet Parlour or check out

Introducing Raw Dog Food

When introducing raw dog food to a dog do it slowly – half a teaspoon one meal, a full teaspoon the next etc. The first time you have calamari you don’t want to see the squid! This serves two purposes. Firstly, a dog on dry food will be unaccustomed to fresh meat. While the vast majority of dogs will not be phased, if you put a load of it in their bowl they may not eat it. Also, the slow introduction tunes the gut in to the new diet.

As they have spent their life eating cooked and heavily salted foods, some pets can be reluctant to try new things, this is why we advise moving over slowly. However, if you suspect you are mother to a very picky dog we recommend moving even slower. Put half a teaspoon of mince in a mug and splash some hot water on top, making a raw meat gravy. Pour this over their normal rations then build up the meat content over days! Or, you can make a small pattie from the mince, lightly sprinkle with salt (very bold but dry fed dogs want it) and fry on both side for exactly 60 seconds each side. No dog on the planet will say no to this. The next time you cook is for 50 seconds. Then 40, then 30, adding less salt as you go. We’re smarter than them! Once they jump they will never go back.

Storing Raw Dog Food

Raw dog food is almost always frozen. That’s how they preserve it without using all the nasty chemicals. It resides in the freezer. You take a meal from the freezer and defrost it in the fridge in a large lunchbox on the bottom shelf. This tub serves a dual purpose as you can add your scraps into it. And yes, you can feed partially defrosted meat to your dog no problem. Lots do!

What About Puppies and Reproducing Bitches?

Fresh food is vitally essential for everyone, from pups to seniors, athletes to reproducing Mums, they all need fresh protein, good quality fats and lots of easily absorbed vitamins and minerals. This is what fresh food offers. Pups eat very similarly to adults though their foods should contain a higher fat content. Ask a staff member for staff further details or go to for further reading

What about cats?

Cats need fresh food too. Studies show that cats suffer dry food terribly, certainly in the case of kidney disease and pancreatitis. Cats are even more carnivorous than dogs. They do not want any veg in their diet (though they too will eat it, if started young). Their ratios are approximately 3:1:1, which is 3 parts boneless meat (chicken, duck, rabbit, turkey, lamb, fish from frozen or a tin, etc.), 1 part organ meat (liver, heart, kidney, spleen, brains!) and one part meat on the bone (where they can chew the bone or not). That’s the ideal and most raw foods for cats are built around this ratio. Many raw dog foods are suitable for cats to start them off and you can add in bits on top to make it more suitable. They need 2-4% of their body weight per day in this diet. Ask in store at The Pet Parlour for more details.

Ask in store for more details or go the Raw FAQ section of! 

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