All over the world, people are choosing to shun canned and dry dog food in favour of something called the BARF diet. This approach to feeding pets has been praised by many people, but it is not the sort of thing you can jump into without a good amount of prior research.

You need to know why a BARF diet is good for your dog, what foods should be incorporated into it and what should be avoided. Raw food diets like this are controversial, but they can provide your dog with some real nutritional benefits if done correctly. Here is a guide to the BARF diet, and what you should include in it.

Benefits and problems

BARF stands for one of two things, depending on who you talk to: Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones And Raw Food. Both acronyms mean essentially the same thing. They refer to a diet formed mostly of raw meat and bones, with vegetables, fruit carbohydrates and dairy products thrown in and no processed food to speak of.

The benefits of this diet are obvious, especially to people who have given up processed foods in favour of natural ingredients in their own lives. Your dog will be healthier, particularly when it comes to their energy levels and their condition in later life. The diet is much closer to what they would eat if they were wild animals, so it is better tailored to their nutritional needs.

However, there are risks to it. For one thing, you need to avoid any foods that would harm your dog. This can include poisonous foodstuffs and some bones, which can splinter and become sharp, harming your dog's internal organs. These would obviously not be contained in canned food.

If you take care and avoid the risks, you will probably find that the BARF diet is right for your dog and is a great way to improve their health.

What to include: Meat

So, if you are going to be giving your dogs raw meat, the first step is to decide exactly what type. It should be stated at this point that opting for the BARF diet does not mean heading out to the butchers, as many retailers stock pre-packaged food suitable for dogs on this meal plan.

This might be the best option for beginners to the BARF diet, as it is a nice, safe option for your dog. While all meat is essentially good for your dog, feeding it to them raw does carry some risk with it: namely that of food poisoning and salmonella. This is much less likely in pre-packaged food, but you can avoid it yourself.

Red meat is not only full of lots of nice, healthy iron, it also carries with it much less of a risk of food poisoning. Chopped up finely or minced, it will be a wonderful healthy food. Poultry is the only meat you need to be especially careful of, and you can always cook it beforehand if you are worried.

Another foodstuff that often gets overlooked when it comes to feeding your dog according to the BARF diet is fish. This meat is incredibly nutritionally beneficial, containing a huge amount of protein as well as omega oils that will improve your dog's health. Of course, you must be careful with the bones, so prepare this particular dish with caution.

What to include: Bones

Speaking of bones, they are another integral part of the BARF diet and one of the more controversial. However, like every other part of this diet, when prepared correctly they can be incredibly beneficial to your pet.

The best ones to opt for are bones with bits of meat and tissue still attached. These make great treats for your dog, for two reasons. The first is that, nutritionally, bones contain a lot of goodness that your pet will enjoy and benefit from. However, there is also a psychological element.

Gnawing on a bone is remarkably calming to dogs. Something about the activity releases the right chemicals in your pet's brain to make them feel happier and more content. This adds up to a snack that is not only good for your dog nutritionally, but psychologically as well.

What to include: Fruit and vegetables

This is an area in which you will have to be especially careful. There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that are harmful to dogs that you will need to avoid if you want to keep them happy and healthy.

Examples of fruit and vegetables to avoid include grapes, raisins, avocados, tomatoes, macadamia nuts, walnuts, onions, garlic and corn on the cob. All of these can cause your dog digestive distress at best, and severe health issues at worst.

Aside from this, around 20 to 40 per cent of your dog's diet should be made up of fruit and vegetables. These can be cooked if you are worried about your dog's teeth, but you will lose some of the nutrients if you do so. You should also remove all the pits, stones and seeds from fruit, as these are poisonous to dogs.

What to include: Miscellaneous

Aside from these essentials, there are a number of things you can give a dog on the BARF diet. Many canines enjoy cooked brown rice, raw or cooked eggs and even a small spoonful of ice cream from time to time. Do your research and customise your dog's diet to include the foods they love.

Written by: Hannah