BARF diet

BARF Diet Mythology

Steven E. Crane

A very small segment of pet owners have accepted the opinions of a vocal fringe minority of individuals who are currently proponents of feeding raw foods. The diet is commonly called the BARF diet, (Bones And Raw Food). Individuals within this group often make unsubstantiated claims that sound plausible but are typically unsupported in fact. The barf diet is extolled based primarily upon several myths claimed to justify the feeding of this diet.

Myth 1 – Claimed similarities between modern wild canids and the domestic dog, and thus modern domestic dogs therefore have identical genetic development and nutritional needs as wild canids.

Myth 2 – Claims of increased disease levels and shortened life spans in pet dogs versus claimed lack of disease and increased life spans in wild ancestral canids like wolves and coyotes.

Myth 3 – Claimed reduced levels of parasites.

Myth 4 – Claimed reduced levels of food intolerance, adverse reactions to foods, and or “allergies”.

Myth 5 – Claims that feeding “raw meaty bones” are good for domestic dogs.

Myth 6 – Claimed increased value of uncooked foods versus cooked foods and subsequent loss of trace micro-nutrients by the cooking process.

Popular discussion of BARF in the US is based to a large degree on myths promoted by superficial and hyperbolic promoters of one product or another, or those selling the latest version of video tapes, books, supplements, foods and other materials. Barfers’ typically denigrate any information that is derived from solid scientific studies as having been “tainted” by some supposed conspiracy of involvement between commercial pet food companies, veterinary teaching universities, the FDA, USDA, CDC, WHO, and any other evidence knowledge based organization. At the same time Barfers accept at face value opinions promoted by purveyors of Barf products and scaremongering media. No level of competence or proof is demanded of those who state facts in favor of Barf feeding; while multiple, peer reviewed published university research studies are often denigrated by Barfers’.

This paper seeks to examine some of these myths. As a confirmed Barfer once noted, the decision to feed BARF is an emotional one, not a science based decision. As we shall see, making decisions based on emotions can lead one astray.

Evolutionary Divergence – Myth 1

Eight million years ago in what is now the Great Plains of North America two archetypes of early canid ancestors competed. Epicyon was a larger powerful carnivorous animal the size of a modern wolf. It’s primary prey were large ancestors of today’s modern deer and elk. Another early canid named Eucyon shared time and space with Epicyon. Eucyon was about the size of a modern fox and concentrated its efforts on much smaller prey, scavenging any edible nutrient. The larger Epicyon followed its very large prey into extinction. Adaptable Eucyon, with teeth suited for eating both meat and plants survived. Eucyon migrated into the Old World and eventually evolved into modern wolves. About 800,000 years ago wolves migrated back across the Arctic to North America.1, 8

Robert Wayne PhD, geneticist at the University of California at Los Angeles examined DNA in dogs and wolves. Wayne’s recent genetic work suggests dog ancestors of some sort broke away from wolves about 100,000 years ago. Wayne’s work included 147 dogs representing 67 breeds and 162 wild canids of all species from around the world. Wolf and human remains have been discovered in early fossils from over 400,000 years ago, but dog and human fossils date back only 14,000 years. Prior to this study, domestic dogs were thought to have originated only 14,000 years ago. In this new study, Wayne and his associates studied patterns in the mitochondrial DNA from dogs, wolves, coyotes and jackals. This type of maternally passed DNA changes at a specific rate. Wayne’s study showed so many DNA changes that dogs must have diverged genetically from wolves about 100,000 years ago.

“We expected to find DNA sequences in dogs that were closely related to those in wolves, perhaps even indistinguishable from those in wolves,” Wayne said. “We expected to find a few different sequences in dogs; instead, we found 26.” Wayne found no evidence to support dogs evolved from jackals or coyotes.

The researchers found four distinct genetic groups in the dog world. This suggests that dog ancestors domesticated several times within the +100,000 year window, or at different places, and that no single wolf ancestor is common to all dogs.3, 5, 28. In a similar study conducted by Vila and Maldonado at the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Uppsala University in Sweden, maternal DNA showed a separation of 135,000 years between modern domestic dogs and wolves. 33

Coyote, fox, and jackal DNA differ greatly from that of modern dog. This separates modern coyotes, jackals and foxes from modern domestic dogs by more than 400,000 years of evolutionary history. Any comparison to this group of wild canids with domestic dogs is without merit, leaving the wolf as the only closely related wild canid .3, 5 It is also interesting to note that DNA hybridization shows that the canine family diverged about 50 million years ago from other members of the carnivora family.33 The carnivora genus also includes purely herbivorous animals like the Giant Panda Bear (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).

In a suggested symbiotic relationship, domestic dog predecessors must have gathered around the campfires of early man to scavenge from the left over trash. Individual animals that were less threatening, or provided value to man by aiding in the hunt would have survived better than those which were threatening or provided no value. As a consequence of natural selection those animals which survived also passed on a specific pool of genetic material. The genetics passed on were influenced by the ability of the animal to inculcate itself into human life. Less and less threatening animals, more and more helpful animals, and animals better suited to survive on scavenged human trash would be the winners in the DNA lottery. Over a period of 100,000 years of cohabitation the separation of genetic material continued toward the present day and created animals with friendly dispositions, various sizes, shapes, coats and markings and distinctly different primary food resources.

Evolution and mutation of the actual genetics of the wild canid ancestor were required to begin the process of domestication. The idea of “taming” a wild animal and then proceeding from there is neither factual nor plausible. Some genetic mutation was required. Coppinger and Coppinger stated in their book Dogs “A basic change, a genetic change has occurred.” If not, then today’s wild wolf puppies tamed from birth would be capable of domestication.

Proponents of BARF claim that domestic dogs and wild canids are alike in their nutritional needs. Such claims are without foundation in scientific fact and exist only as opinions. Barfers’ would have you believe that while the domestic dog developed eating anything and everything man threw away over the last 100,000 years, no variation in nutrient needs or digestive abilities developed. The vast and incredible array of externally visible differences between 4 pound Chihuahua’s and 150 pound Great Danes occurred in less than 14,000 years. The separation between wolf and domestic dog occurred 100,000 years ago, and yet Barfers choose to believe no internal changes occurred between the domestic dog and the wild wolf. Such an assumption is patently false.

One of many good examples of internal changes that natural selection wrought is a significant difference in the eye of modern wolves and modern domestic dogs. The topographical distribution of retinal ganglion cells in seven breeds of dog (Canis lupus f. familiaris) and in the wolf (Canis lupus) was studied. A prominent feature of wolf retinae was a pronounced “visual streak” of high ganglion cell density. By contrast, a moderate visual streak was found in dog retinae. The estimated total number of ganglion cells averaged about 200,000 cells in the wolf and 115,000 in the dog.10 Evolutionary natural selection reduced the domestic dogs eyesight to almost half that of the wolf. Yet Barfers’ would have you believe there are neither biological nor physiological differences between the two.

Further evidence of evolutionary changes in the dog compared to the wolf abounds in the literature. In a study of 2,959 dogs across 40 different breeds Genetic mtDNA variations in domestic dogs show a much higher level of heterozygosity when compared to wolves.33 Differences in musculature, tendon strength, gut wall arterials and many other distinct differences in the internal organs and abilities are described.11, 16

The Barfer emotional decisions to compare the feeding habits of wild canids to domestic dogs is without scientific foundation and places the domestic dog at risk.

Comparing the needs of the current wolf to domestic dogs is not based in fact and certainly not based on 100,000 of years of natural selection and mutation inexorably forcing genetic change. No creature stands still in evolutionary time. The ancestors of today’s domestic dog excelled at living on human trash that contained both raw and cooked meats, vegetables and grains. Those that survived were naturally selected. Those individuals that did not survive and excel were unable to pass on their genetic code. Since the modern wolf was not exposed to 100,000 years of eating human trash the development of its’ nutritional needs was not altered in the same manner. To expect these two different species to have the same nutritional needs is simply not substantiated in history, science or logic.

Lifespan and “immunity” – Myth 2

Barfers’ frequently infer that domestic dogs are plagued with disease and live miserable lives when fed a commercial food. They compare wild canids like wolves, coyotes, jackals and others to domestic dogs and decry what they believe is a much increased level of disease in domestic animals. The majority of such purported increased disease they attribute to domestic animals eating a prepared food and not eating a BARF diet.

The domestic dog’s lifespan has increased monumentally over just the past fifty years. Primarily due to better veterinary care, vaccines and nutrition, all of which come under attack by Barf proponents. Barfers’ would suggest that we should imitate the food intake of wild wolves and other canids. As we have already seen, the coyote, jackal and fox have nothing genetically or evolutionarily in common with today’s domestic dog. The wolf on the other hand separated from the domestic dogs 100,000 years ago and is a distant ancestor. The disconnect in Barfers’ logic becomes apparent when you examine the average lifespan of today’s wolf.

· Grey Wolf lifespan 8 years in the wild, slightly more in captivity when fed commercial foods.

· Mexican Wolf lifespan 15 years in captivity, less in wild.

· Red Wolf lifespan 4 years in the wild up to 14 in captivity (fed commercial foods).

Obviously a multitude of factors influence lifespan. Breed size of domestic dogs is a very significant factor. Smaller breeds typically live longer among both domestic dogs and their wild cousins. While wolves have an average life span in the wild of 4-8 years the smaller coyote is claimed to have a lifespan of as much as 15 years in the wild.

It is interesting to note that feeding commercial pet foods to wild canids is the recommendation of the American Zoo and Aquarium, Nutritional Advisory Group. This same group also suggests raw meat in “carnivore logs” should only be used for the purposes of administering medication like wormers, enticing animals to move through cages or doorways, and getting the wild canid accustomed to eating commercial diets.35 While the Barfers are busy claiming domestic dogs should mirror the feeding habits of wild wolves, the very people who know the most about caring for wild canids recommend the feeding of a “commercial pet food” to wild canids. One of the reasons wild canids survive longer in captivity is that they are being fed a commercial diet instead of the BARF diet they would have eaten in the wild.

It’s important to recognize that as more common causes of death are reduced, other forms of death must necessarily increase. We have reduced the number of traumatic deaths (i.e. hit by car) by enforcement of leash laws and dog fencing laws around the US. Death by trauma is still the single biggest cause of death among domestic dogs, but it has been radically reduced over the past 20 years. Common diseases like distemper, parvovirus, and others are responsible for fewer deaths each year as a larger and larger population of immune animals exists to slow the transmission of these diseases by reducing the pool of possible victims. As our domestic pets live longer and longer lives they are necessarily more likely to suffer from cancer, heart disease and other predominantly geriatric illnesses.

Domestic dog life spans have been rapidly increasing over the past half century. Dogs living much beyond previous ordinary life spans for any given breed are now common. 25 year old Yorkies, 25 year old cats, and 15 year old Rottweilers are no longer astounding and amazing rarities.

Evidence is also mounting of other issues relative to BARF feeding. Renal failure is the 3rd most common cause of disease death in dogs and the 2nd most common in cats. In a large study conducted by Dr. Joe Bartges, Dr. Jean Dodds and Dr. Susan Wynn, they looked at blood work from over 200 BARF dogs, and compared it to 75 dogs eating ‘normal’ diets and used by the lab for reference values. Mean BUN (blood urea nitrogen) was indeed significantly higher in dogs eating the BARF diet. Increased BUN is one of the most critical values examined when looking for renal failure. While it is incorrect to state that increased BUN might cause renal failure, it certainly is a significant warning of impending danger in older geriatric dogs with undetected renal failure.

Parasites and BARF – Myth 3

One common comment from the Barfer world details supposed increased “immunity” and freedom from parasites and disease. The literature provides proof of that fallacy as well. In regards to parasites; the wild wolf that eats only a BARF diet is also equally susceptible to internal and external parasites and other canine diseases. Wild wolf scat illustrates significant exposure and infection with various forms of internal parasites. The literature describes cases of tick born disease, parvovirus, rabies, and cancer among species of wild canids throughout the world. Large wolf populations have been decimated by disease, even when the food source was plentiful. 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 15, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27. Eating a raw diet as prescribed by Barfers’ didn’t help to prevent any of these common illnesses, infections, and diseases. Neither is there any data to support the claim that eating a BARF diet reduces susceptibility to any diseases or parasites.

Food Allergy and Intolerance – Myth 4

Barfers’ commonly claim reduced levels of food intolerances or “allergies”. True allergies in domestic dogs are very, very rare.29. Still rare, but more common, are food intolerances or adverse reactions, usually presenting in itchy scratchy skin, chronic ear infections, and vomiting and diarrhea. Between 8 and 11% of all dogs elicit adverse reactions to food at one point in their lives. A review of literature encompassing a large number of dogs and published studies covering the US, Australia, New Zealand and Europe was conducted. That study revealed the following proteins in descending order are the major culprits in dogs: Beef, Wheat, Dairy, Lamb, Chicken, Egg, and Soy. These seven items comprise 93% of all adverse reactions.29 Internet mythology, emboldened by unscrupulous manufacturers anxious to create a niche in the market frequently ascribe allergies to corn, yet corn is one of the least likely sources of intolerance. Only 4% of the 8-11% of all intolerant dogs has shown intolerance to corn and rice combined. Part of the problem certainly has to be attributed to the use of ELISA blood tests for allergies, which are well known and well documented to be completely worthless in determining adverse reactions to food. Nonetheless some veterinary clinics continue to order these tests and rely upon them, thus providing poor information to their clients and increasing the perceived level of food intolerances that exist.

Barfers’ frequently claim they have resolved these food allergies by switching to a Barf diet. Dogs can show a reduction of symptoms by simply increasing the amount of essential fatty acids in the diet. The question then becomes; was the animals’ previous diet simply deficient in these essential fatty acids, or is the current level of essential fatty acids simply covering up the symptoms? There is no way to tell. Did the Barf diet substituting raw beef for the cooked beef change the animals’ reaction to the beef protein molecule? No, if the animal was intolerant of beef before, it is still intolerant of beef. What the Barfer may have simply discovered was the prior food source simply had too few essential fatty acids for the individual pet. Raw ingredients are no more likely, or less likely to instill an allergenic response or intolerance.

Barfers’ typically eschew grains and vegetable matter as being unimportant and even inappropriate for domestic dogs and concentrate on raw meat as the primary nutrient source. Never mind that Epicyon became extinct following a very similar diet and Eucyon survived by being adaptable and eating anything and everything they could.

Raw Bones – Myth 5

The feeding of raw bones to domestic dogs is an integral part of the Barfer diet fad. Proponents claim that no harm will come to any dog fed a raw bone. Never mind the literature and veterinary clinics that have seen countless cases of impacted bones, torn stomachs, and other internal organs as a result of this practice. What Barfers’ fail to recognize is that the wolf and other wild canids have developed a unique process to accommodate raw bones, a process which domestic dogs as a result of 100,000 years of natural selection cannot duplicate. Debbie Davidson, wildlife biologist with the International Wolf Center in Maine describes that process.

“I’m a wildlife biologist in Maine and the Maine field representative for the IWC. Wolves, and likely the other wild canids that you mentioned, have a mechanism that protects their internal organs when they pass the bones of wild animals through their systems. The first feces produced after a kill are very dark and quite liquid-like with little form; it looks to us like diarrhea. Wolves don’t necessarily eat everyday and so the subsequent feces often reflect the same kill. The next time they defecate, the feces is still dark but has more form. With each defecation, the feces become lighter in color and contain more substance. Because they often eat the entire animal that they kill, they ingest a lot of hair. Towards the final defecations involving the same kill, hair can be seen in the feces actually wrapped tightly around any bones that are passed through. This seems to protect the organs/passageways as the bones are eliminated.”2

Very few Barfers’ are feeding whole carcasses complete with the hide and hair. The availability of whole carcasses to most people is severely limited. Even if a Barfer were to find patches of hide to feed along with the raw bone, today’s naturally selected evolutionary model of domestic dogs does not have the ability to digest these bones in the same manner anyway. Domestic dogs have not been shown to be able to “wrap bones in hair” to protect internal organs.

Nutrient Results of Feeding BARF. – Myth 6

“One of the most frustrating conditions in both dogs and cats fed raw foods, particularly the yeast, bone meal, muscle and gristle trim tissues and chicken parts such as necks or backs commonly used, is that of digestive disorders and the resulting deeper weaknesses, such as allergies, arthritis, I.B.S., liver, kidney or thyroid imbalance, poor immune responses and other organ issues, including diabetes and seizures.”30 This comment from Dr. Lisa S. Newman, ND (Naturopathic Doctor), Ph.D., and Dr. Lee Veith, D.V.M. whom tried using BARF in the treatment of pets.

“All the [BARF] diets tested had nutritional deficiencies or excesses that could cause serious health problems when used in a long-term feeding program. Of equal concern is the health risks associated with bacteria in the raw food diets, especially the homemade diet that yielded E. coli O157:H7. Although owners feeding raw food diets often claim that dogs are more resistant to pathogenic bacteria, we are not aware of evidence to support that claim.”31 This from Drs. Freeman and Michel in the work they published in March 2001 in the AVMA Journal.

Barfers’ typically concentrate on ingredients and ignore nutrients. This is much akin to not being able to “see the forest because of the trees”. Ingredients give the pet owner no clue in regards to an animal’s prospective ability to utilize the nutrients the ingredient brings to the animal. An individual pet does not take a molecule of chicken protein and use that molecule to replace damaged muscle tissue. It is the individual amino acids present within that molecule that the animal uses for biological functions. Barfers’ often denigrate amino acids, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients derived from one source or another and proclaim some magical value to nutrients from another source. Any nutrient from a grain is presumed by most Barfers’ to have lesser benefit than the same nutrient derived from a meat source. Multiple scientific studies have proven this to be a complete fallacy. There is no “traffic cop” in the stomach that refuses entry for some nutrient derived from grain and permits the passage of the same nutrient derived from a meat source. For example a molecule of tryptophan, an important amino acid, whether derived from soy, corn or beef has equal value to the animal. While some nutrients are in greater abundance in some ingredients, the biological value of the given nutrient is not negated simply because of the source.

Barfers’ frequently denigrate the value of grains in the diet of domestic dogs. The most commonly used grain in pet foods is corn. About 99% or the starch fraction of the grain is digested in dogs. This holds true of nearly all grains. The starch fraction of any grain contributes carbohydrates which are a source of rapidly available energy that does not require the kidneys to process it before it can be utilized. The protein fraction of corn, which is highly digestible in dogs, contributes valuable amino acid building blocks. Grains like corn also contribute high levels of naturally occurring Omega Fatty acids and the antioxidant lutein, critical for long term health. 100,000 years of genetic mutation and natural selection made it possible for domestic dogs to derive a significant amount of value out of grains.

In the process of proclaiming great value to the BARF diet, the proponents completely ignore one of the most common causes of death in domestic pets – renal (kidney) failure. In most cases the proposed diet recipes are excessive in calcium and phosphorous. While there is no data that shows the feeding of high levels of phosphorous will cause renal failure, there is a mountain of data which clearly shows renal failure can be greatly exacerbated by feeding such a diet. Most veterinary hospitals are unable to detect renal failure until 70% of the kidney is destroyed. Barfers’ tend to concern themselves with internet fantasy diseases purported to be caused by artificial antioxidants and totally ignore real disease like renal failure. This is much like standing in the middle of an LA freeway with the cars whizzing by at 70 mph and being worried that you will die as a result of a lightning strike on a sunny California day. Ignoring real disease in favor of internet fantasy diseases is not the best choice for your pet.

Barfers’ loudly proclaim the value of “raw” versus cooked. While there is no question that some nutrients are degraded by the cooking process there are also a number of nutrients that are unavailable to the animal unless the given ingredient is cooked. Sometimes there is a trade off. For example, vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat whereas carotenoids are made more available by the softening effects of cooking. Manufacturers can easily add in more vitamin C to increase the levels in the final product. In some cases vegetables must be cooked to be safe to eat. Common starches are a good example of a nutrient that is virtually unusable unless cooked. Cooking tomatoes significantly increases lycopene absorption. Uncooked whole grains are virtually useless to dogs. 18, 19 Digestibility as measured by protein efficiency ratio of raw kidney beans significantly improved when cooked. True digestibility and net protein utilization also showed a significant improvement in the case of cooked kidney beans.32 Trypsin inhibitors isolated from buckwheat seeds are heat stable and can cause poor digestion if they are not suitably cooked before consumption.34

Vitamins were first discovered well over a hundred years ago. The last vitamin discovered was vitamin k in 1946. The rate at which vitamins degrade during any given cooking process is well known and established. Tables of nutrient degradation under various types of cooking, at various temperatures, and various lengths of time have been well known for many years. Commercial pet food producers are well aware of these effects. It is very simple and inexpensive for any commercial manufacturer to add these nutrients into the product mix at a rate high enough to allow for degradation and still contain the needed quantities. In contrast the Barfer has no clue about the digestibility and availability of specific nutrients in the meals they prepare. No controlled feeding trials have been performed, and no testing of micro nutrient levels has been performed for any of the commonly promoted recipes, much less individual alterations to recipes proffered by the Barf crowd

Barfers’ sometimes proclaim that there are “trace” nutrients we are not yet even aware of that are present in raw foods and not present in cooked foods. While the progress of science in determining what trace molecules exist in any given ingredient is increasing at a geometric rate there is no question that we may have some left to discover. What the Barfer fails to recognize is that 100,000 years of natural selection have created a domestic pet that is attuned to the effects of cooking and eating human trash. Further there may be just as many “trace” nutrients discovered to exist only in cooked versions of any given ingredient. We already know that many nutrients are not bio-available to the domestic dog unless they are cooked. Certainly we will discover new trace elements in food and how they impact the animal in the future. We will just as certainly discover trace nutrients in cooked foods that are not biologically available in raw foods. Failing to recognize the impact of 100,000 years of natural selection evolution and mutation on the domestic dog can lead to erroneous assumptions.

Because Barf proponents ignore nutrients in favor of ingredients, all such diets end up unbalanced. Perhaps this is why the vast majority of veterinarians oppose Barf feeding, and why not even a single board certified veterinary nutritionist is a proponent of barf feeding. Very few, if any, Barfers’ have the technical skills or the equipment necessary to analyze the meals they develop and administer to their pets. An analysis of any Barf diet recipe illustrates the problems this can entail. A commonly recommended Barf recipe provides the animal with 50% more calcium than is appropriate and 22% more phosphorous than an animal should have. Such excessive levels may lead to a number of long-term health problems. It is not uncommon for veterinarians to encounter puppies like Julie, a young puppy whose owner was determined to feed the BARF diet. After a few months the puppy developed osteoporosis and had several fractures, indicative of rickets. Placing the puppy back on a commercial diet resolved the problems an unbalanced diet created. Veterinary clinic observations of mal-nutrition among Barf diet feeders are hugely more frequent than is appropriate for the small percentage of people experimenting with this latest fad in pet food. If this same percentage of failures was found in any current drug or commercial food, it would be the subject of massive media investigations, TV News Show exposes, and the company involved would be spending the rest of its’ life defending the lawsuits.

Human Health Concerns

Handling of raw meat is fraught with danger. US consumers have become more careful over the past few years and the incidence of human disease as a result of salmonella, listeria, shigella, and E-coli have been reduced. However the FDA has taken note of increased risks to humans of feeding raw meats to our pets. A draft notice was issued by the FDA December 18th, 2002. It states in part “FDA does not believe that raw meat foods are consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks, particularly when such products are brought into the home and/or used to feed domestic pets.” “…the potential for risk to public health from such products is undeniable, and the magnitude of such risk is likely significant…”

The feeding of raw diets to dogs and cats may affect the animals themselves or may have unexpected effects on children, elderly or other human inhabitants of the same household. In a Canadian study published in June 2002, Joffe et al studied the shedding of salmonella organisms in the feces of dogs fed raw diets. Salmonella was isolated from 30% of the raw fed dogs37. That means the dogs fed raw diets were spreading salmonella about the back yards and other areas of the household. The bacterial contamination may not affect most dogs and many humans may be relatively safe in a bacterially infected area, but some humans may end up succumbing to the effects of this powerful bacterial infection.

The handling of meats for human consumption nearly always entails cooking and consumers have become accustomed to careful handling. This care goes by the wayside when our pets are fed raw meats. The contaminating bacterium from the meat is spread around the dogs’ mouth and face as it consumes the meal. Consumers who pet their dogs anytime after a meal may contaminate themselves or their children. The USDA estimates that salmonella is present in 35 percent of turkeys, 11 percent of chickens and 6 percent of ground beef. Each year, food-borne pathogens like Salmonella, Campylobacter, E-Coli, Shigella, and Listeria cause 76 million illnesses and 5,000 human deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), E-coli O157:H7 kills an estimated 60 people nationwide every year and sickens another 73,000.

Despite vociferous claims to the contrary pets fed BARF diets do succumb to the bacterial species commonly found on raw un-cooked foods. The literature contains numerous examples of such deaths and diseases. An example is a Papillion breeder in Texas who fed a raw chicken based BARF diet. Two dogs developed gastrointestinal signs and died within 48 hours of exposure. Other breeders who used the same sources of food reported similar problems. The species of salmonella found in the gastric mucosa was identical to that found in the chicken. Salmonella Heidelberg was cultured from the dead dogs as well as the chicken food source.36 The BARF myth that dogs can somehow “handle” contaminated foods is simply that; a myth, unfounded in reality, and dangerous in its application.

Even the lawyers are starting to get concerned about the dangers. Douglas C. Jack LL.B. wrote in his column on veterinary legal issues: “Ultimately, veterinary science will produce sufficient data necessary to determine their (BARF Diets) efficacy. However, until that time, there is some elevated risk of liability for veterinarians who advocate raw foods.” “To the extent that there is any body of literature that draws a connection between the feeding of raw diets and the incidence of parasitic zoonotic disease, then there is evidence of causal connection between raw meat and bones and subsequent illness of either the companion animals or its owners”. “A report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that such a nexus may exist. (The companion Animal Practice Council also recommended against feeding raw foods in guidelines unveiled in January)”.38


We have found that comparing the diet of wild canids to domestic dogs is fraught with error. We have also discovered that the life span of wild canids is nothing any of us would want to inflict upon our own pets. We have discovered that feeding raw bones unaccompanied by the hide and hair to a domestic dog, unequipped with the ability to “wrap the bones” with hair, is an accident looking for a place to happen. We have learned that BARF fed wild canids are no more immune to disease and parasites than domestic dogs. We have determined that domestic dogs live longer today than they did even 50 years ago. We have learned that micro-nutrients may well be found in raw foods but also may exist only in cooked foods. We have learned that domestic dogs separated from their closest cousins the wolf over 100,000 years ago. We have learned that BARF diets are supported not by science, but by opinion and emotion, by scare mongering media desperate to gain your attention, and by the purveyors of videos, books, products to sell, and websites, each with a financial stake. We have looked at a couple of the hundreds of pets each year who end up as medical disasters in the veterinary clinic as a direct result of feeding the Barf diet. We know that the vast majority of veterinarians oppose Barf feeding and not single board certified veterinary nutritionist is a proponent of Barf feeding. The clearly proven risks of feeding Barf far outweigh its’ purported advantages. It’s your pet and by right you may choose how to feed your pet. Choose wisely, choose based upon real evidence and real facts. Choose based upon the knowledge of board certified veterinary nutritionists. Refuse to allow internet fantasy and the latest imported fad to rule your emotions and have a devastating effect upon the health of your pet, your children or yourself.


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