BARF is amongst the trends that most dog owners are now familiar with. But have you actually heard of whole prey? We will explain what this independent feeding method consists of and what advantages and disadvantages are associated with it.
Whole Prey Diet for Dogs
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What is a whole prey diet for dogs?
Whole prey does what it says on the tin and dogs receive whole prey animals. Fans of this feeding method consider whole prey the most primitive feeding method for dogs. For instance, they can eat entire rabbits or chickens, including the fur and feathers.
The name guides us here too: Frankenprey means constructing prey – a humourous reference to Frankenstein's monster. However, fans of this feeding method don't have to stitch together any scary prey, but merely recreate it. This means combining meat, organs and bones in the same proportions as with real prey. Beef can also be used, although this wouldn't be possible with whole prey due to the size. A popular combination would be:
- 80% lean meat or heart, stomach, fat, skin, tendons
- 10% bones
- 5% liver
- 5% other organs like kidney, spleen
It isn't necessary to serve the perfect combination every day. Frankenprey fans look at the bigger picture: for instance, they weigh out the ingredients for ten days and split them into ten daily portions, in which proportions play no role. Bones are an exception and should never be served on their own. Prey food is always raw, but just to be on the safe side, take note that a dog should never be given cooked bones.
What differentiates the whole prey diet for dogs from BARF?
Just like with feeding prey, BARF also focuses on raw food and is short for 'biologically appropriate raw food'. Whilst whole prey and Frankenprey focus on the composition of prey, BARF as a concept looks at a dog's needs. Supplements, fruit and vegetables are on the menu with BARF, but they aren't standard with whole prey. Only salmon oil is supplemented by some dog owners – for instance, with meat from conventional livestock farming with Frankenprey.
Possible advantages of whole prey for dogs
Knowing what your dog eats
If you want to know exactly what ends up in your dog's stomach, you're on the right path with whole prey. Artificial aromas, sugar or grain aren't found in whole prey. However, high-quality food varieties also list all ingredients in a transparent way.
Originally based on wolves
If you let your dog destroy a whole chicken, you have certainly found a natural form of nutrition. With Frankenprey too, dogs eat the fur, bones and tendons and can chew on their prey like a predator. They enjoy this and it gives the owner the sense that they are feeding their dog in a species-appropriate way.
Chewing meat, cartilage and bones simulates teeth cleaning for dogs, so whole prey and Frankenprey can contribute to preventing tartar. However, there are good alternatives – such as occasionally giving your dog raw beef, dental care snacks or cleaning their teeth.
Possible disadvantages of whole prey for dogs
Wolves – questionable role models?
Wolves like eating rabbits and other prey, but aren't strict carnivores – unlike cats. This means that wolves very much nibble at berries or roots. In any case, dogs have adapted to their food over thousands of years as a cultural successor of humans. This is a big difference to cats, which primarily made themselves popular amongst humans for catching rats or mice. Neither wolves nor dogs are strict predators.
Where do the ingredients come from?
Buying whole prey ingredients isn't for the squeamish. It's an advantage if you know an agricultural company and can regularly buy feed animals there. Another option are frozen mice and rats, which are mainly sold for snakes in specialist stores. Whole fish can round off the whole prey menu. Some BARF stores have prey items in stock. These include, for instance, entire goat's heads or whole, deconstructed goats. It isn't permitted to feed dogs live animals like mice or rabbits! Frankenprey is more straightforward, as beef can also be fed along with bones and organs.
Significant space requirements
If you don't live on a farm and slaughter your own animals, you need a large deep freezer for whole prey or Frankenprey. Large dogs in particular need relatively large quantities. A dog weighing 50kg requires around 700g meat per day. Here we come to another disadvantage: cost.
Whole prey is expensive
Both whole prey and Frankenprey are expensive, because the quantities of prey, i.e. meat and bones, come at a cost. If you choose Frankenprey, you will be able to obtain meat from a butcher with a bit of luck. Whole prey is particularly expensive if the dog weighs more than 10kg. In contrast to cats, independent hunting is not an option for dogs. Although they can occasionally catch a mouse in the garden at home, hunting rabbits or other wild animals as dog food is forbidden.
Holiday care provision
If you occasionally depend on a dog sitter, you will have to give them more detailed information about feeding your dog than simply 'open the tin/bag and into the bowl it goes!'. For instance, the sitter has to defrost prey. Not all dogsitters can cope with the sight of a dead rabbit in the freezer. Hence, it's beneficial if your dog is at least familiar with and accepts standard ready-made food.
Dog owners need to pay close attention to their dog's diet in order to deploy the whole prey or Frankenprey methods. It's doubtful whether these methods are ideal for dogs. The vitamin and mineral content in (frozen) prey isn't always the same. BARF fans add supplements to dog food with good reason. Regular veterinary check-ups including dog tests are recommended for all dogs and are essential for dogs following the whole prey or Frankenprey methods. It's recommend to seek out a vet specialised in nutrition, who can discuss the feeding plan with the owner and improve it if required.
Who is the whole prey diet for dogs suitable for?
Whole prey is suitable for dog owners who wish to get closely involved with their dog's diet. Unlike cats, dogs aren't strict carnivores, so the BARF approach of mixing in vegetables or herbs makes sense. Whole prey merely offers prey. It is comparatively expensive and requires plenty of space, as well as good planning. Alternatively, a high-quality complete dog food both lists ingredients in detail and also contains everything a dog needs, without the owner having to carry out research or weigh anything. Whole prey fans have to make a lot more effort. Every dog owner has to decide for themselves whether the benefits justify this.