Imagine this…you have been feeding the BARF Diet for a while now. You walk over to the refrigerator to take out a defrosted BARF patty. Your dog hears the fridge open, and races over to you. You put his favorite flavor in his bowl, and after sniffing for a few seconds…he walks away.
For many of you, this is an incomprehensible situation. Like many dogs, including my own, your dog can’t gulp down his meal fast enough. He would never dream of turning his nose up at it. But from time to time, this CAN happen. When it does, what do you do?
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Co- Founder of BARF World, and Co-Creator of the BARF Diet, Robert Mueller. Rob has been feeding the BARF Diet for more than 35 years, and has successfully worked countless numbers of people (and dogs) through this perplexing behavior. While refusal to eat is much more common in dogs transitioning onto the diet than dogs who have been eating raw for some time, he was able to provide some valuable insight, on the off chance that this does occur.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are several reasons why this might occur. In the same way that a person may not feel hungry if tired, depressed, anxious, or a little under the weather, your dog may choose not to eat for a day. Other triggers could include the application of antibiotics, steroids, or eating something unsavory from the backyard. It is important to try to identify the root cause behind your pet’s lack of appetite.
Rob notes that many people have multiple dogs; if one is enthusiastic and the other is hesitant, there is an issue with the dog, and not the diet. It may boil down to a competition or respect issue, where one dog will not eat until the other has finished. To help avoid this, isolate the dogs from each other at feeding time.
A common mistake in this situation is to freak out and feed table scraps or an alternate diet. This is unnecessary, and can be harmful. Dogs are very smart, and pick up on behavior patterns quickly. Some dogs will manipulate an owner’s feelings of guilt and worry, and use this as a tactic to receive additional human food and extra treats. This is a situation Rob has referred to as “Training the Trainer”. A perfect example of this occurs in my personal life.
I have a godson named Chase, who will be turning three next week. I am convinced that my best friend and his wife feed Chase macaroni & cheese for about 40-60% of his meals. While I am not a father yet, common sense tells me that this is not a balanced diet, and is not healthy. When I have asked about it, I am told that he becomes difficult, and they just don’t want to deal with it. It seems to me as if Chase has his parents (the trainers) trained to do what he wants…or forces them to suffer through a tantrum. Smart kid!
So, how does one get around this uncomfortable scenario? One approach is to stick to your guns. It is perfectly normal for a dog to go for a day without eating…he will eat when he is ready. Rob emphasized the fact that in 35 years, he has never seen a dog starve himself. Not only does this give the GI tract a chance to reset itself, but many people unknowingly overfeed their dogs. Both are compelling reasons to try a 24-hour fast.
In certain situations, flavor enhancers can be used to re-attract a dog to a raw meat diet. After all, most kibble diets are sprayed with artificial fat sprays and flavor enhancers (they need to be, or your dog would never eat it). Healthy additives that double as flavor enhancers include garlic (powdered or otherwise), coconut oil, or even a crushed Etta Says liver treat. A raw egg can also work.
Texture also has a major impact on a lot of dogs. If a dog is hesitant to eat the food cold, it can be warmed up. To do this, it is best to place patties inside a zip-lock bag and run them under warm water. Gradually warm the patty up less and less over time, until he is eating it cold again.
Another way to change the texture is to feed the patties frozen. Rob has seen this work well, especially in the summertime when it is hot outside. Not only does this cool down the dog, but it also forces him to eat more slowly, which can be a common reason behind digestive upset. It also engages the jaw muscles for a little additional exercise.
Last, but certainly not least, it is important to have patience. While this situation can be frustrating, it is often temporary. While many BARFers will never experience this issue, it is important to be prepared…just in case. Until next time…happy BARFing
Evan Price is a Raw Diet Educator for BARF World Inc. He is a true dog lover at heart with a particular interest in Dachshunds. Evan is also an avid sports enthusiast and bridge player. For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for The Intelligent Pet weekly e-zine at www.barfworld.com.