Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Offal

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.



Filed under Nutrition

21 responses to “Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Offal

  1. I’m learning so much abour the BARF diet through your posts! It’s something we’re interested in and I’m so glad to know we’ve found someone who feeds raw.

    I’ll admit, the photo of offal made my stomach turn a bit. 😉

    P.S. Your Liver Cake recipe looks awesome! One of Gus’s favorite things to eat is liver treats but we’ve never considered making our own. I may contact you down the road for permission to repost your recipe!

    • Glad to be of help, and sorry for the ‘nasty’ picture. I quite like playing with offal 🙂
      That liver cake recipe has changed our life for the better (100% recall!) and is so easy to make, as long as you overcome your nausea. I’m sure little spoilt boy Gus would love it. No problems about reposting the recipe, permission granted! 😉

  2. Oh my … I am learning so much from you! I am so glad I”m human! Great blog idea, didi!

    • Thank you for your nice comment, John. I’m glad you like the idea behind my blog. I’m not surprised, though, not after we’ve identified that we both loved Angela’s Ashes. Great minds think the same 🙂

  3. My wife makes a good liver stew for our dogs, and they love it. We use it to add to their crunchies instead of soft can food.

    • Now that sounds yummy (and not just for the dogs)! Nothing beats home-made food, I’m sure your dogs appreciate mum’s efforts. I wouldn’t mind learning the recipe, if it’s not a secret. Why don’t you post it on your blog, I guarantee that all doggy bloggers out there will be grateful for it.

  4. George The Lad

    Thanks for your visit and kind comments, great to meet another George.
    Interesting post, George was on a raw diet for a while but then I had to start cooking it off, so went back to dried food but a am very careful to check what’s in it. Having said that he loves home made liver cake the kitchen smells of it now!
    Having read your post I might just get some offal and cook it off for George as a treat
    Have a good week

    Jan and George

    • Thank you for the comment, Jan, I’m glad to find that our boys share the same passion for liver cake! What dry food do you use? We always have a bag of James Wellbeloved in the house (just in case), but George is not very keen on dry food which is how we ended up feeding raw in the first place (had to keep him from starving to death).

  5. sagechronicles

    I like the idea of liver cake! Sage & Toby both love liver treats, so why not?

  6. We have a doggie cousin who is very sick, and he’s on a strict diet of cod because everything else makes him sick, and because the cod is so good for him. His mama cooks his cod out on the grill every day for him! All our Mama does is dump our kibble into a bowl. We’re scowling and growling, Mama!

  7. Pingback: Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Bones | my little dog

  8. I’ve lately started to feed G and R chicken hearts, about 500gm a week, between the 2 of them Do you think that might be too much? They’re big dogs. G is about 43kg, R about 53. I cook them too, can’t say I’m a fan of the SMELL.

    Thanks to your liver cake recipe and Pamela’s oven baked liver, I think I’ll probably continue with homemade liver treats from now on. They sure smell different. Makes me wonder if the commerical ones have stuff added to make them smell more…liverish! Maybe I should try just boiling them up with the hearts too. I understand liver should be organic since it is a receptacle for toxins?

    Never tried kidneys before. Do you recommend any particular type?

    • I don’t think you’re feeding them too much heart at all. After all, they’re both big dogs (I never thought they’d be so heavy, but you can’t always tell from photos). George is only about 16 kg (which is quite big for a whippet), and the recommended amount of meat for him is around 200-250 g per day, depending on his level of activity. I normally split this into 2 meals (sometimes 3 with the chicken wings/lamb ribs, but when I do that, I adjust the amount of meat for the other 2 meals), which gives about 100-125 g meat per meal. One meal a week is offal (mainly heart and kidney) – which means he gets about 100 g of heart and/or kidney a week. Based on this calculation, there’s no way 250 g of offal a week is too much for a 43-53 kg dog. I think you’re spot on with that. But then, I’m not a vet or dog expert, so you could always check this out with your vet or a dog nutritionist.
      I think you’re right about commercial treats, they must have something in them. I bought George a bag of little dry sausages once when we were on holiday and a bag of doggy chocolate drops for his birthday, and he hated both! That tells me that they’re not as good as home-made treats, or that he’s a spoilt monkey 🙂
      To be honest, I never worried too much about whether the liver I use is organic or not. Due to the purpose it serves within the body, liver is bound to be a receptacle for toxins, but I think its benefits outweigh this disadvantage. After all, the quantities we’re talking about are too small to be harmful anyway. I guess there’s a point about it being organic, the animal would have ingested less chemical substances and manufactured food.
      I only have access to pork and lamb kidneys, and choose to feed George the latter because, as you know, I’m not a big fan of pork. But again, the quantities are small and you cook it anyway, so I can’t see how pork kidney would do any harm.

      • Now it’s MY turn to be surprised. George is only 16kg? He looks bigger! That’s why when I first “met” you, I said I didn’t think he was a little dog at all :p

        Based on my mental (and possibly faulty) arithmetic, R and G must be getting about the right amount of meat then. We get at least 5kgs of chic and 5kgs of beef (to take advantage of bulk discounts) plus about 500g of offal a week. With George’s weight and recommended meat quantity as a guide, R and G should be getting about 3 times as much…approximate 4.5 – 5kgs a week. R hardly moves, so though he’s much bigger, he gets about the same quantity of meat as Ms Gadabout. I’m so glad I read your reply. I’ve always wondered if they were getting an appropriate amount 🙂 Thanks!

      • Although within the standard, George is right at the top height limit of 20″ and is, as I said, quite big for a whippet. To some people, 16 kg would sound like too much. Given how big your babies are, I can imagine how he seems tiny 🙂
        Your maths sounds right. I wouldn’t worry anyway, both G and R look fine to me. I used to be obsessed with George’s weight as he was growing up, since keeping weight on a whippet can be tricky. I don’t worry so much now, I just judge the amount of food he needs by the way he looks. It helps that he doesn’t over-eat, he will leave food in his bowl if I give him too much. My vet says that, with dogs that have thicker coats, like Rufus, if you can feel their waist and ribs – only lightly, not sticking out – when you run your hands along their body, then they’re pretty much spot on.

  9. Pingback: Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Fish | my little dog

  10. Didi, I have just read all your BARF posts and found them so helpful. I’m researching lots of options for Grace and the raw diet continues to be of interest. Thanks for all your info on this, it’s so helpful. Do you grind the bones, similar to what you do with the veggies? or just give them whole? What percentage of George’s overall diet would you say is bones?

    • Hi, Robin, I’m so sorry for the late reply. Life’s still crazy and, to be honest, I don’t know if it’ll ever settle down before I retire 🙂 Anyway, I’m glad you found my Barf posts helpful and I’m more than happy to answer your questions. I give George his bones whole, because I don’t have a powerful grinder to ground them, but also because chewing is a natural, de-stressing activity for any dog and it’s better for his teeth, too. Most of George’s bones are chicken wings, lamb ribs, lamb breast and lamb neck, which he usually has in the morning (as breakfast), especially during the cold season, when I have to feed them inside. Because I have a fobia of raw meat dragged around the house, I simply hold these for George and he stands or sits next to me munching on them. If Grace does not like this system, you could consider having a special ‘bone rug’ and teaching her to take her bones on there and nowhere else. We’ve done this, too, but George prefers his mummy to hold the bones (what a baby!). In the summer, I add knuckle bones and bigger lamb and beef bones to George’s diet, because he can take them out in the garden and take his time with them. In fact, there’s always a bone laying around for him in the summer, it’s so much easier.
      George does get some ground bone, too, but that comes with some of the food we buy for him. We’ve found a supplier of pet-grade aw food that contains ground bone and we sometimes order from there. Also, one of the best complete foods we found (which we use as backup for when we travel) contains ground bone. In terms of percentages, it’s hard to say. I’m not as obsessed with percentages or grams as I used to, I play it by ear more. I think he gets about 15% bone in the winter, with the percentage going up to 25-35% in the summer. Sometimes, a meaty bone can be a whole meal, so there are days where bone matter represents 50% of his food intake.
      That’s kind of it, I hope it helps. Please let me know how it goes…Good luck! x

      • George is so lucky to have you hand-feed his breakfast to him! I can tell that he is very appreciative, though, and that makes it worthwhile! Thanks for all the continued insight. Everything I read confirms the benefits of a raw diet and I know that it is a very healthy way to go. I spoke to a vet this morning and he wasn’t convinced that a raw diet would be ideal for Grace, but probably if I had started earlier, it would have been better. I suppose each situation will be different. Your posts were absolutely perfect in helping me get more familiar with the process and I thank you.

  11. samantha

    I buy pet mince from the butchers
    and my 11 month old Akita Loves it,
    she eats it raw. And she’s never sick
    nor have direar. I Also give her
    Prize Choice fed raw. But she preferes
    the pet mince best. I give a little dry
    food with her mince . I hope the advice
    is helpfull . You can buy prize choice
    at pets at home

  12. Hi there – just found you whilst looking for advice on feeding offal to Alfie Whippet!!! – He says he wants it but I wanted to be sure – just cooked it up for him so we will see later….. he will have to share with the greyhound but I don’t think he’ll mind ….. I love your blog and your dog is gorgeous!!!!
    Peace and Love,

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