Barfen – The right ingredients with love and understanding

Again and again there are discussions about the right nutrition for our dogs. Are they now pure carnivores because they are descended from the wolf? Or are they more omnivorous because they have been domesticated for so long and tend to feed on food scraps? Is Barfen compared with wet food and dry food better, healthier, more sensible? And what is the ideal composition for barfing? Find out here.

Barfen compared to wet food and dry food

If you feed your dog ready-made food, you have it easy. For the feed usually contains all the important ingredients.

Dry food stores well, is ideal for travel and on the road and easy to feed. Wet food from the can is particularly tasty and good for water balance. Once opened, however, it must be consumed quickly. Because of the often high protein content, wet food can lead to unpleasant oversupply reactions.

What you should consider in any case when choosing food, you can read in our Guide to dog nutrition guide. We have compiled a list of good dog food for you here.

Barfen – General information about the composition

Barfing in no case means the exclusive feeding of raw meat. Raw means raw food, so in addition to meat equally vegetables, fruits, lettuce and bones. Because dogs, like us humans, need above all protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, trace elements and vitamins as the basis of their diet. The bottom line is that you can tailor the ingredients to the exact dog.

Activity, age and size of the dog are important criteria. Depending on the level of exercise and breed, an individual mix results for each dog. Also, the nutritional status, diseases and special preferences of your dog must also be considered in the composition.

You can read the opinions of three animal nutrition experts and veterinarians on barfing in this article.

Advantages of barfing

Barfen has several advantages compared to feeding ready-made food

  • The food for the dog can be composed individually
  • Safety through targeted purchase of flawless, tested ingredients
  • Variety in the menu possible at any time
  • Immediate reaction to oversupply or undersupply possible at any time
  • shiny coat, healthy teeth, less exhalation and flatulence.
  • less disposal of feces thanks to good feed conversion

However, these advantages are only the case if you are well informed professionally about the right composition and are not afraid to possibly seek advice from a nutritionist for dogs.

dog bowl filled with meat, fruit and vegetables
BARF is more than raw meat!

Meat and offal for barfing

The meat content in the barf can come from different animals. Most often fed beef, turkey, chicken, lamb, goat, duck, deer, venison and rabbit. But you can also use horse and exotics such as kangaroo, buffalo, pheasant, camel and ostrich.

The meat of some animals has special advantages:

  • Muscle meat from horse brings less protein and energy than beef and is therefore good for less active dogs and seniors.
  • The udder of beef contains a lot of calcium and fat. It is good for puppies and sick dogs.
  • Mouth meat of beef, being very digestible and tender, can taste even puppies and old dogs.
10 different bowls of fresh meat for dog food
Offal plays an important role in barfing.

Offal is a must!

Offal contains vital substances such as minerals, trace elements and vitamins. About 15% of each meat portion for the dog should therefore consist of offal. For example, the liver and kidney contain biotin, iron, copper and vitamins (A and B). However, liver and kidney should be given only once a week, because they also contain substances that are difficult to degrade. Lungs and spleen, on the other hand, are low in fat and calories, but offer plenty of iron. However, they are not very digestible and should be fed only occasionally.

Stomachs of cows, sheep or goats are valuable suppliers of minerals, trace elements and vitamins for dogs. This is because the stomachs of these ruminants already contain predigested vegetable feed with many vitamins. Especially the green rumen contains vitamins (A, B 1-12, C, D and E) and vegetable ingredients such as enzymes. It also contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, iodine and zinc. In addition, green rumen still provides plenty of protein. Thus, a pure rumen day can be inserted once a week at any time. Lamb rumen is a good alternative for dogs with allergies.

Blood, bone and cartilage

Blood, bone and cartilage are officially part of the meat. Likewise, fish, which is recommended once a week as a supplier of essential fatty acids (linoleic acid), iodine and vitamins. As a fish substitute, occasional administration of fish oil or evening primrose oil is recommended. This helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins well.

Raw bones are an essential part of barfing. Their ingredients such as calcium, iron and enzymes and fat every dog needs. Chewing bones is also good dental care for dogs. Here, veal and beef bones and ribs are suitable as healthy employment food. Depending on the size of the dog, here again variability is possible. Since bones have a clogging effect, please start carefully! Cartilage parts such as various tracheas are a viable alternative to large bones.

Some dogs react to the administration of bones with vomiting or bone feces, so you should approach the right amount slowly! If you don’t want to feed bones, you can use ground bone powder instead.

“Bone feces usually occur when too much bone is eaten. Vomiting can occur in individual dogs even with small amounts if bones are not tolerated. In addition, there are other risks associated with feeding bones, such as risk of injury to the mouth or gastrointestinal tract from bone fragments.”

– Dr. Susan Kröger, Specialist Veterinarian for Animal Nutrition

What else belongs to the ideal Barfen?

In addition to meat, offal, cartilage and Co. is of course also plenty of vegetables and some cereals to the barf feeding

Vegetables and fruit

Vegetables and fruit are other important components of a healthy barf diet. Vegetables can be on the menu , for example, in the form of fennel, cucumber, zucchini, carrot, lettuce, celery or radish . It can be used pureed, but also in pieces. There are even dogs that like to nibble on a carrot as a bone alternative.

Fruit is a water-rich, vitamin-rich source of energy and offers your dog a welcome change. Apples, pineapples and pears, for example, are rich in fiber (pectin), vitamins and trace elements. Sweet fruits like blackberries or raspberries support the dog’s immune system with high vitamin C content. Stone fruit such as apricots or cherries, naturally pitted, bring the dog vitamin A (eyes) and potassium (muscles, nerves).

Avocados, raisins, grapes and plums are not suitable for dogs. What other foods are toxic for dogs, you can read here: Toxic foods for dogs


Rice or noodles are suitable carbohydrate sources in barf for dogs. But potatoes or pseudocereals like millet or quinoa are also good choices. Oatmeal can also be added occasionally.

Avoid under- and over-supply!

Absolutely important when barfing is that your dog does not experience an oversupply or undersupply of the individual nutrients! This requires regular control of the feed, because deficiency symptoms or diseases usually show up very late and then with unpleasant consequences. Therefore, you should inform yourself intensively before a change in diet and have your dog’s blood values checked regularly by the vet!

“An oversupply or undersupply of the individual nutrients can only be assessed by checking the rations by trained veterinarians. Although blood tests, so-called BARF profiles, are also offered, not all analyzed values are readily meaningful.”

– Dr. Susan Kröger, Specialist Veterinarian for Animal Nutrition

Do you barf your dog?
How do you put together your rations?

We’d love for you to share your experience in the comments!

Dr. Susan Kroeger

Dr. Susan Kröger is a specialist veterinarian for animal nutrition and dietetics. For more than 10 years she was employed at the Institute of Animal Nutrition at the Free University of Berlin, among other things as head of the institute’s own nutritional counseling service. Today, she is not only an expert in this field, but also develops recipes for premium dog and cat food together with the FRED & FELIA brand since 2019.


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