Another Friday is here and it is time to continue our series of posts dedicated to the Barf diet with a third one about offal and the role this plays in George’s diet.
The term “offal” refers to those parts of an animal which are used as food but are not skeletal muscle: internal organs such as heart, liver and lungs, as well as all abdominal organs and extremities, such as tails, feet and head, including brains and tongue. Blood and tripe are also classed as offal, but I will not touch upon them in this post, as there is no way I am feeding George blood (apart from what’s in his raw food) and I’ve already mentioned tripe in my meat post . Alternative expressions such as “organ meats” or “variety meats” are also available for people who, for whatever reason, do not like to use the term “offal”.
Regardless of the animals that offal comes from, it should be part of any dog’s diet. In the wild, dogs ate the stomach content and organ meat from the animals they hunted, internal organs forming a vital part of their diet. Since modern dogs have similar requirements, offal should be part of their diet, too.
Offal is a good source of protein, and some organs, especially liver and kidneys, are very valuable nutritionally. It has been proven that dogs consuming these foods as part of a sensible diet have superior health to dogs that do not eat them. However, although organ meats are valuable dog food, they are not required in huge amounts, as they are very rich in nutrients.
Three of the offal products listed above find their place in George’s weekly diet: liver, heart and kidneys.
Liver is the most concentrated source of vitamin A and should be fed in small amounts on a regular basis. It contains significant quantities of vitamins C, D, E, K and all the B vitamins, and is an excellent source of minerals such as zinc, manganese, selenium and iron. Liver also provides a source of good quality protein and essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. For this reason, it makes a fantastic food for a dog and it is not surprising that all the dogs I’ve met have been really keen on it.
Like liver, kidney supplies good quality protein, essential fatty acids, many vitamins such as A, D, E, K and all the B vitamins, as well as iron and zinc. Heart is also an excellent source of protein, B vitamins and iron. Although its vitamin content is not as high, it does contain some essential fatty acids and significant levels of taurine which is extremely beneficial for the dog’s heart.
George loves all of these, but they do not seem to suit his system very well if fed raw, as they give him diarrhoea. For this reason, I have to cook them for him, but that is fine with me, especially since there seem to be some potential risks associated to feeding raw offal to pets, such as the risk of developing hydatid disease due to the dog tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus.
I give George one meal of cooked heart and/or kidney per week, which he looks forward to and queues up at the kitchen door for. This way, I make sure he gets all the benefits of these wonderful organ meats without overloading his system. For some unknown reason, he is not particularly keen on cooked and chopped-up liver, but he’d do anything for liver cake, therefore liver has left the dinner menu to become the supreme treat.