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Is BARF and Raw Really That Good ?
#1
The Reason Why Feeding Raw IS NOT Always The Best For Your Dog
Feeding a diet similar to that of a wild dog or a wolf, usually low in grains or carbohydrates, has a popular following. These owners often wish to feed bones and raw foods (BARF), thought to be similar to a wolf eating a carcass. The dog has been domesticated over the last 10,000 to 15,000 years. During this association with humans dogs have been eating more grains. Their genetic makeup has changed to accommodate an increase in dietary carbohydrates and they are genetically dissimilar to wolves in several key genes involved in starch digestion and glucose uptake . Many other metabolic traits were unaffected by domestication and dogs as well as cats will select a rather low carbohydrate diet by choice. Cats are obligate carnivores requiring higher protein levels than dogs as well as several specific nutrients. Cats generally require a meat/fish/poultry source of protein. It is possible to balance a vegetarian diet for dogs but much more difficult for cats . Dogs are omnivores and can do well on a variety of animal derived as well as vegetable-sourced foods to receive the required nutrients in their diet. One study in racing sled-dogs showed good performance and maintenance of haematology parameters when fed a complete and balanced vegetable-based diet that included rice, corn and soya proteins compared to a poultry-based diet . The omnivorous dog also has the ability to convert the beta-carotene found in plants to vitamin A, has sweet receptors on its tongue, and is able to digest a variety of starch-based foods. Cats are obligate carnivores and require animal-sourced ingredients to provide essential nutrients in the diet. This includes requirement for pre-formed vitamin A and arachidonic acid, higher requirements for arginine and the sulphur-containing amino acids cysteine and methionine, as well as a requirement for the free amino acid taurine; all of which are low to absent in plant ingredients Types of nutrient deficiencies that can occur with inadequately formulated commercial or home-prepared vegetarian diets include zinc-deficient dermatosis caused by phytate (a phosphate compound found in plants) binding to and preventing absorption of zinc by the animal; higher fibre diets preventing absorption of essential fatty acid (EFA) resulting in poor skin and haircoat; inadequate arachidonic acid intake in cats resulting in not only skin and haircoat issues but poor reproduction performance in breeding cats, and inadequate taurine intake for cats resulting in taurine-deficient cardiomyopathy or retinal degeneration . These problems can occur with improperly formulated meat based diets as well, but the likelihood is lessened when a balance of animal and plant ingredients are used in the diet. IS IT A BALANCED DIET? Some home made and raw food feeding programs are meant to balance the diets over weeks rather than for each meal. With the right ingredients this could work; however when homemade diet recipes were tested almost none of them were balanced for all of the essential nutrients . A nutritional study of the BARF diet showed the diet to be deficient in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc, and excessively high in vitamin D Varying the foods or the recipes is unlikely to balance out the deficiencies as they often share deficiencies or excesses. Pets may not show signs in the short term; and some adult pets could cope with some of these imbalances, but they may affect the health and bone strength of growing animals. Homemade diets are often include higher amounts of protein and fat and relatively low total carbohydrate and dietary fibre amounts than are typically found in commercial dry extruded and moist foods. Adult pets often consume unconventional diets without developing any health problems, but sometimes even healthy adult dogs and cats can develop adverse effects, ranging from relatively benign effects (e.g, increased colonic fermentation, and gas production with higher protein intakes) to more overtly life threatening concerns (e.g, higher fat diet fed to an animal with a history of pancreatitis), as a result of consumption of these diets. Studies on bacterial contamination of raw foods have shown 20-35% of raw poultry and 80% of raw food diets for dogs tested positive for Salmonella spp, and 30% of stool samples from these dogs were positive for Salmonella. Raw food diets have also tested positive for E coli and Yersinia enterocolitis. Otherwise healthy dogs may be able to cope with ingestion of these bacteria, but very young, old, or immunocompromised dogs may not be able to. Further, the stools contaminate the environment with these bacteria. Parasites that may be present in raw meat in include Toxoplasma gondii, Sarcocystis, Neospora caninum, Toxocara canis, Taenia and Echinococcus. When handling raw food the preparer must be scrupulous in hygiene, washing all surfaces and hands before touching anything or anyone else. Small children, the elderly
ARE RAW BONES SAFE? A bone is large enough that it cannot be chewed into pieces is safe, although tooth fractures have been seen. Smaller or splintered bones carry the risk of obstructing the oesophagus, stomach or intestines. There is a conception that feeding raw bones is safer than feeding cooked bones, and although there is no evidence for or against this concept a raw bone has more “give” and is less likely to fracture teeth. Bones that become stuck in the stomach, or more likely in the intestine, may perforate the gut causing a potentially fatal peritonitis. Chewing on large bones will not provide sufficient calcium in the diet. d the immunocompromised should not be handling raw meat, 
DENTAL HEALTH Some advocates of feeding bones claim that they are beneficial for oral and dental health. A study in African wild dogs found that they had similar dental diseases to domestic dogs14. Many of these dogs had periodontitis without sings of dental tartar, so while the teeth may appear cleaner, the gums are not necessarily healthier. Studies of large wild cats have also shown feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL) similar to those of domestic cats . As many unconventional diets are calcium deficient there is a risk of nutritional hyperparathyroidism. In this condition calcium is taken from the bones, weakening them. The weakened condition of the mandible makes the risk of a fracture during routine dental cleaning a very real possibility. 
ARE RAW BONES SAFE? A bone is large enough that it cannot be chewed into pieces is safe under supervision , although tooth fractures have been seen. Smaller or splintered bones carry the risk of obstructing the oesophagus, stomach or intestines. There is a conception that feeding raw bones is safer than feeding cooked bones, and although there is no evidence for or against this concept a raw bone has more “give” and is less likely to fracture teeth. Bones that become stuck in the stomach, or more likely in the intestine, may perforate the gut causing a potentially fatal peritonitis. Chewing on large bones will not provide sufficient calcium in the diet.


Schlesinger DP, Joffe DJ. Raw food diets in companion animals: a critical review. Can Vet J 2011;52:50–54. 2. Strohmeyer RA, Morley PS, Hyatt DR, et al. Evaluation of bacterial and protozoal contamination of commercially available raw meat diets for dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;228:537–542. 3. http://www.aafco.org 4. Axelsson E, Abhirami R, Arendt L. Maqboot K, et al.The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a start-rich diet. Nature 2013;495: 360-365. 5. Evaluation of cats fed vegetarian diets and attitudes of their caregivers. Wakefiled LA, Shofer FS, Michel KE. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2008; 229(1):70-73. 6. An experimental meat-free diet maintained haematological characteristics in spring-racing sled dogs. Brown WY, Vanselow BA, Redman AJ, Pluske JR. Br J Nutr 2009; 102:1318-1323. 7. Stockman J, Fascetti A, Kass PH, Larsen JA. Evaluation of recipes of home-made diet recipes for dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2013; 242 (11): 1500-1505.
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#2
Special thanks for outlining what is known about carbohydrate metabolism in domesticated dogs. This might explain why my dog seems to do better with a certain amount  of starchy carbs in his diet.   I think it is a mistake to maintain dogs on very low carbohydrate diets indefinitely,  especially during periods of growth, illness, stress, pregnancy etc. I saw significant improvements in my dog's health on a nutritionally balanced, raw food diet, but I saw further improvement in his behaviour and temperament when I introduced things that make most raw feeders heads spin: banana, sweet potato, and even carefully prepared grains and pseudograins. I really think the grain free and raw movements have done many pet dogs a disservice by restricting their carbohydrate intake so drastically. 

As an aside, my dog's diet would be lacking in many ways if it didn't contain cooked foods. I don't think we should be denying our dogs anything that they tolerate well, if it benefits them.
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