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Barf or BARF is a method of feeding carnivorous pets that was developed primarily for domestic dogs . According to their own statements, the developers at Barf oriented themselves towards the eating habits of wild dogs , especially wolves . Therefore, the rations are composed of fresh or frozen meat , offal , bones and fish. The feed is supplemented with fruit and vegetables and fed raw. If necessary, cereal products and feed additives can be added. Knowledge of animal feed and animal nutrition is required to ensure that the rations are put together as required. Barf is not limited to dogs, cats and ferrets are also fed this method.

There is no evidence of the nutritional or physiological advantages of raw feeding compared to feeding with ready-made feed. Since “barfing” also brings with it the risk of malnutrition and microbiological risks for both the raw-fed animals and the people living with them, it is rejected by specialist veterinary organizations.

Origin of the term

The term barf was used by the Canadian Debbie Tripp to denote both a dog owner who feeds his dogs according to this method, as well as the food itself. The meaning of the acronym BARF changed over time. Initially, this abbreviation stood for “Born-Again Raw Feeders”, a designation that also clarified the ideological aspect of this movement, then “Bones And Raw Foods” (“bones and raw food”). The Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst published the book Give Your Dog A Bone in 1993 and coined the meaning of the acronym in the direction of "Biologically appropriate raw food", which in German with the backronym "Biological species-appropriate raw food" or "Biologically appropriate raw food" has been translated.

The English verb to barf means ' vomit, throw up ' in German. Occasionally this equality is used with the acronym for word games.


In a survey as part of a diploma thesis, pet owners stated the following motives for switching to BARF: desire for a healthy diet, health problems of the pet (including skin and gastrointestinal problems, allergies, musculoskeletal disorders and kidney and urinary tract diseases) , Food intolerance, abnormal behavior of the animal (e.g. aggression, fear), regulation of body weight, recommendation of other people or institutions. However, there is no evidence that feeding BARF has the positive effects attributed to it.

The impression of a “lack of transparency” in the composition and manufacture of finished products as well as feed scandals in the past are further motivations for animal keepers to look for other feeding concepts. Against the background of efforts for the most “natural” possible diet of domestic dogs based on the model of his ancestor, the wolf, the far higher proportion of grain and other sources of carbohydrates is criticized in relation to commercial feed.

The following points are also perceived as advantageous: knowledge of all the components of the feed, the animal's need to chew is satisfied more, dental care is supported and the ration structure can take certain diseases (e.g. feed allergy ) into account.

Risks to the animal

According to Jürgen Zentek, head of the Institute for Animal Nutrition at the FU Berlin , it is easily possible to feed dogs with self-made rations in a balanced way. However, the composition must be right, otherwise there is a risk of an insufficient supply of nutrients. A needs-based diet according to BARF criteria, however, requires in-depth knowledge of animal feed and animal nutrition. Since these are often not available in sufficient quantities, it is recommended that the rations put together by the animal owner be checked by a specialist veterinarian. Faulty BARFs can result in gastrointestinal problems including constipation and diarrhea , tooth fractures and foreign body diseases through bones as well as the possibility of the transmission of various diseases ( e.g. pseudo anger , neosporosis and toxoplasmosis ). In the United Kingdom, cats were fed a commercial barf food to become more infected with Mycobacterium bovis , the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis .

A 2013 US study of 200 raw feeding recipes for healthy adult dogs showed that over 90% of them did not contain at least one essential nutrient in the minimum recommended amount, and over 80% of the recipes had several deficiencies.

The supply of calcium , copper , zinc , iodine , vitamins A and D is particularly critical when creating BARF rations . Young dogs in particular are sensitive to nutrient deficiencies, but also oversupply. It is also often not easy for veterinarians to identify deficiencies, as blood tests ("BARF profiles") are of little help here. The calcium in the blood is regulated within narrow limits and deficiencies are compensated by mobilization from the bones. Copper is mainly stored in the liver and only decreases in the plasma when there is an extreme deficiency. In addition, there are strong daily fluctuations in some vitamins and trace elements. The safest way to identify malnutrition is to analyze the ingredients in the feed.

Feeding too much bone can lead to an oversupply of calcium. However, if the feed is not replenished to meet the needs, it can lead to a corresponding undersupply. With barf rations that are too high in protein , undigested protein gets into the colon . There it is broken down by microorganisms, producing a lot of ammonia and amines , which is a danger especially for animals with liver and kidney function impaired due to age and / or illness . Another danger is the feeding of parts of the throat with thyroid tissue , as this can lead to symptoms of an overactive thyroid .

In a Canadian study on Salmonella exposure in raw-fed therapy dogs, it was found in 2008 that raw-fed animals excreted Salmonella and cephalosporin-resistant E. coli far more frequently than raw-fed dogs.

Dangers to humans

Due to the raw feed used at BARF, existing pathogens can spread quickly. Here, make zoonoses such as salmonellosis , Escherichia coli infection, dysentery or campylobacteriosis less a threat to the animals themselves, but rather for the surrounding people. As a particularly vulnerable elderly, children, pregnant women and individuals are immunocompromised. The University of Zurich in 2019 published a study, which analyzed 51 feed samples from different vendors. Above-average levels of different multi-resistant bacteria were found. In 73 percent of the samples, enterobacteria were found to be exceeded and in 61 percent of the samples ESBL- producing bacteria. The authors concluded from this that the BARF diet poses a health risk for humans and animals.

In one study, feeding a raw meal contaminated with Salmonella resulted in 7 out of 16 dogs shedding Salmonella for up to 7 days; another study found that dogs fed raw meat had an increased risk of Salmonella shedding of 61% per dog per year Compared to an 8% risk in not raw-fed dogs. Salmonella in contaminated food bowls are not safely eliminated by common cleaning and disinfection methods. Further contamination of the environment via salmonella in dog stools is also conceivable. In addition to the dog as a source of infection, a direct infection of humans is also possible when handling raw feed.

Animal owners should therefore be informed by the veterinarian about the existing risks. Veterinarians are advised to pay particular attention to hygienic handling when handling raw-fed patients and to implement protocols to minimize the risk of infection for other patients.

The comparison between dog and wolf makes sense

Genetic studies (as of 2017) show that most domestic dogs have adapted to a starchy diet. However, fossils from Neolithic dogs and populations that have not been exposed to agriculture do not show this change. This adaptation apparently only took place after the development of agriculture and thus well after the beginnings of domestication of the dog. A similar phenomenon is the development of lactase persistence in humans. The objection from the veterinary side is that the wild wolf's diet is adapted to short-term survival and successful early reproduction, but that the wolf naturally also dies young, whereas dog owners expect their pets to have a long lifespan in good health. Deficiency symptoms can also occur in wolves.

Recommendations from government and professional organizations

Among the national veterinary associations , the American Veterinary Medical Association , the American Animal Hospital Association, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association oppose raw feeding. The British Veterinary Association also advised against feeding pets raw meat in 2006, not least because of health risks to the animal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health Agency of Canada also advise against raw feeding. Pet Partners , the largest therapy dog organization in North America, bans raw-fed dogs from participating in their programs.

The German Association of Veterinarians considers a balanced diet with self-made food to be possible, provided that the subject is dealt intensively with the advice of a veterinarian. She sees the risk of an over- and / or undersupply of energy and individual nutrients if the rations are not adapted to the individual needs of the animal, which depend on the age, general health status, physical stress and other factors. The Federal Veterinary Chamber also sees a risk in the possible transmission of disease-causing viruses, bacteria or parasites both to the bared animals and to people who deal with them.

The European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP) , a scientific expert body at European level for parasitic diseases in domestic animals, recommends in its guideline that raw meat should be frozen at between −17 ° and −20 ° C for at least one week before feeding, to safely kill contained parasite stages.

Variants of the feeding method

A “stripped down” barf method is the combined feeding of frozen meat and frozen animal by-products, sometimes with (little) bones and industrially produced vegetable flakes, occasionally also cereal flakes. Here the plant-based feed components are “technically pre-digested”, which imitates the processes in the digestive tract of the prey well. The “raw” claim is met by frozen meat-based food, and rapid freezing at the producer also reduces the hygienic risks.

Individual evidence

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