BARF stands for biologically appropriate raw food, or bones and raw food. The term is used to refer to an unconventional dog diet that relies on a combination of raw meat, bones, fruits and vegetables. The diet has many devotees who claim that it provides tangible benefits for dogs, while the FDA and most veterinarians believe the risks of raw diets outweigh the potential benefits.
Sled and racing dogs have eaten raw diets for a long time. However, Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian, proposed extending the BARF diet to pet dogs in 1993. While there are a number of variations to raw-food diets, most BARF-based diets attempt to mimic the foods that dogs ate thousands of years ago. In addition to adding raw meats and other foods, the BARF diet eschews grains, which form the basis for most commercial dog kibbles.
BARF advocates claim that the diet provides a number of benefits to dogs. They contend that dogs fed a biologically appropriate diet produce smaller stools, have healthier skin, shinier coats, cleaner teeth and increased energy levels. However, there are a number of risks involved in raw diets. For example, dogs may be exposed to dangerous bacteria in uncooked meat, or they may choke on bones. Additionally, nutritional deficiencies may appear if the owners do not balance the diet carefully.