Dry food or barfefood? A decision guide

22. April 2022 — von F. D.

Most dog owners feed their four-legged friends commercially available wet or dry food. This contrasts with barf feeding, which is as close to nature as possible, with raw meat, bones and vegetables. So what is the "right" dog food? Let's compare the advantages, disadvantages and risks of both feeding methods.

Complete feeds from the trade

As the name suggests, complete foods are meant to be fed "alone" - they can be the only food in the bowl and are meant to provide the dog with everything the body needs. The vast majority of commercially available wet or dry foods are such complete foods.

Advantages of complete feeds

  • Complete feeds are available in every pet shop, supermarket, many drugstores and, of course, can be ordered online in abundance.
  • Simple and time-saving feeding:** The packets indicate how much should be fed in the bowl each day - you can't go far wrong. The four-legged friend is optimally fed without much effort.
  • The selection is very large:** Whether different flavours, grain-free or suitable for allergy sufferers, there is something for everyone.
  • Depending on the manufacturer and product, you can of course spend a lot of money on ready-made dog food, but there are also good foods for the small purse.

Disadvantages of complete feeds

  • We should be able to expect complete feeds to provide our four-legged friends with everything they need and that we don't have to worry about anything else. Unfortunately, this is often not the case - with some complete feeds, the nutrient composition is not optimal for dogs. You should be especially careful if a food bag does not say what age group the contents are intended for. A young dog food must have a completely different composition in terms of energy and minerals than a food for adult dogs in order to provide optimal nutrition during growth. Therefore, there is no such thing as a food that is equally suitable for all age groups.
  • With many foods, it is not obvious where the meat comes from or from which animal husbandry system. Organic food is an exception here, of course.
  • Many manufacturers are brief with the ingredient information on the packaging. It is therefore often difficult to understand what is really contained and in what quantity.

Barf feeding

Feeding according to the barf principle aims to feed the dog as "close to nature" as possible and thus similar to wolf food with rations that the dog has put together himself. The abbreviation "barf" stands for "biologically appropriate raw food". Raw meat makes up the majority of this, supplemented with offal, bones and other components such as vegetables and cold-pressed oils. Industrially produced feeds therefore do not end up in the bowl when barfing. Organic and close to nature, that sounds healthy and promising at first - but barfing has to be learned.

Advantages of barf feeding

  • The composition of the ration can be individually adapted to the dog, which is particularly interesting for owners of dogs with allergies or intolerances.
  • The origin of the food is known - all components are put together and procured by the owner himself, where they come from can be asked when shopping.
  • No unknown or unclear ingredients: What ends up in the bowl is determined individually.

Disadvantages and risks of barf feeding

  • Risk of malnutrition: Dogs need proteins, fats, vitamins, trace elements and much more in their daily food. And all this not somehow, but in the right composition - this can quickly become difficult when barfing. Oversupply of proteins: This can be caused by the high meat content. This is especially problematic for dogs with kidney problems, but can also lead to diarrhoea in healthy dogs. Caution with young dogs: They react particularly sensitively to incorrect nutrient supply. An undersupply of calcium in particular can be dangerous, as skeletal development is impaired.
  • Caution with bovine maw: The thyroid gland is actually removed from slaughtered animal maws, but portions can remain. If dogs ingest a lot of it, a kind of artificial hyperthyroidism can develop and the thyroid gland can be damaged.
  • The problem of hygiene: Those who barf their dogs have raw meat in the household all the time. The presence of parasites and bacteria can never be ruled out. These can get onto the floor or onto the owner's hands and furniture via the dog's tongue or food spread during eating. Especially with children in the household, this is a serious risk. Caution with bones: Bones are often fed as a source of calcium when barfeeding. If fed in excess, this can lead to hard bone faeces and thus blockages. The risk of injury to the gums, oesophagus and stomach from splintering bones should not be underestimated. Expensive and time-consuming: Barfing usually costs more than feeding ready-made dog food and requires a lot of time.

And what is the "right" dog food?

Whether ready-made complete food or BARF feeding is better is a question everyone must answer for themselves. The "right" dog food is always the one that provides the dog with everything it needs in the best possible way - this can be achieved in both ways.

With ready-made dog food, care should be taken to ensure that the nutrient composition is suitable for the dog and its age. Even if it says complete food, unfortunately not all food is suitable as such. If you find a good food and follow the feeding instructions on the package, you can do little wrong.
There are also high-quality complete feeds, some of which even have an organic seal - in this case you can be sure that the meat they contain is of organic quality and that unnecessary additives have been avoided.

When barfing, there is much more to consider - in order to achieve the best possible supply, the creation of a good feeding plan is indispensable. This will determine whether barfing is healthy for your four-legged friend or whether it could even be dangerous. Caution is advised especially with children in the household, dogs with kidney problems and puppies or young growing dogs. Beginners in particular often make mistakes when feeding their four-legged friends with barf, which can lead to chronic malnutrition. It is also important to remember that dogs are not wolves. His nutritional physiology has adapted over thousands of years to life with humans, which means that he can digest carbohydrates well and meat in excess can even be unfavourable.

When feeding according to the barf principle, a deficit of omega-3 fatty acids can occur due to the high meat content. Therefore, care should be taken to feed these with oils such as linseed oil, fish oil or - even better - algae oil. Alternatively, fish can be included in the diet, as it is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

When it comes to feeding questions, it is always best to talk to your vet: they know best what your dog needs and can also help you to create a feeding plan. This can help you avoid mistakes, especially when feeding your dog barf. They also have an overview of ready-made dog food and know what is best for your dog. Therefore: ask them! This way you can ensure that your four-legged friend gets the best possible care.