Image of dog with jar of fermented vegetables

Are Fermented Veggies Right for your Dog

Fermented veggies are full of great benefits for your dog. You’ve probably heard of the benefits of eating fermented foods for yourself, but did you know your dog can derive those same benefits? Fermented veggies for dogs are a wonderful way to boost your dog’s immunity, aid in digestion, and promote a healthy gut environment. But not all fermented veggies are created equal and they may not be right for every dog.

History of fermentation

Historically fermentation was used as a method of preservation. It can be traced back as far as 6000 B.C. and nearly every native culture after has also used the method. 

Some cultures use fermentation for food safety in addition to preservation. In West Africa, cassava, a root veggie, is an important part of the diet, but it contains high levels of cyanide. When it’s fermented, the root becomes safe to eat, but it would be deadly otherwise. Togwa, a fermented cereal beverage often consumed in Africa, is used to treat upset stomach and protect against foodborne illness in areas where sanitation is difficult. 

Asians have long been fond of using fermentation. Their diet consists of many fermented foods such as fish sauce, kimchi, shrimp paste, natto, bean sauce, and rice wine. The link between food and medicine has strong roots back to ancient China and Rome. 

Ancient Roman civilization used fermented fish sauce as condiments. Garum and liquamen were as important to their diet during the Roman Empire as olive oil is today. The modern Italian diet has many fermented items such as prosciutto, salami, balsamic vinegar, olives and fermented peppers and capers, fermented cheese like feta and Parmigiano-Reggiano and even breads that use a technique called biga, such as ciabatta.

Picking is not the same as fermentation

Picked foods do not have the same benefits as those that have been naturally fermented. If the process involves an acid like vinegar or wine, they do not have the probiotic benefits of those that have naturally fermented. The same goes for those that have been heat-processed or pasteurized.

The greatest probiotic benefits come from a natural technique using a brine or a whey starter. For dogs, the brine method is too high in sodium, so use a culture starter instead.

Benefits of fermented foods for your dog

  • Natural probiotic with a greater variety of strands than those found in supplements.
  • Healthy bacteria microcultures multiply by the billions when food is fermented.
  • Fermentation has a longer survival rate of strains than those in store-bought supplements
  • Chelator/Detoxifier – Removes heavy metals
  • Vitamins multiply with the fermentation process.
  • Source of B12, riboflavin, K2, coenzymes, and choline (which benefits cardiovascular, brain, and nerve function)
  • Bioavailability of nutrients
  • Fights cancer cells
  • Improves immune system
  • Enzymes pre-digest the vegetables making it easier for your dog to absorb the nutrients.
  • Reduces gut inflammation
  • Natural therapy for diarrhea, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Helps control urinary tract infections
  • Lactobacillus helps protect against foodborne illness and pathogens
  • Very beneficial to dogs when taking antibiotics to preserve gut flora

Lacto-fermentation process

Lacto-fermentation is a process of lactic acid bacteria converting sugar into lactic acid, which is a preservative. It’s called Lacto because the strains were first isolated in milk, but it’s far from being limited to dairy products. It’s found nearly everywhere.

How much fermented veggies to feed your dog

When feeding fermented foods to your dog, start slow. Too much too soon could result in not feeling well because of rapid detoxification. Start with ¼ – ½ teaspoon and slowly build up to 1 – 3 tsp for every 20 lbs of weight. 

Making fermented veggies at home for your dog

Fermented vegetables are often found in the refrigerated section of health food stores or sometimes traditional grocery stores. You can also easily make a batch at home. It’s fun, easy and you can save quite a bit of money making it yourself. Homemade fermented veggies have the benefit of customizing the ingredients to your dog’s liking. All you need are some vegetables, a shredder, a whey culture starter, a Mason jar, and ideally a fermentation lid, although you don’t necessarily have to have a special lid.

When you make fermented veggies at home, you do not need to use hot jars, like you would with canning. Also, they are not shelf-stable. Once the fermentation process is complete, store the jar in your refrigerator.

Veggie suggestions

Always choose organic vegetables when possible. Shred thin and mix well before adding to the jar.

  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potato
  • Green bell pepper (stays more crisp than red or yellow)
  • Snow peas
  • Daikon radish
  • Green beans
  • Ginger
  • Celery
  • Turnip

Cucumber is highly detoxifying on its own, so I’d probably avoid using since the fermentation process increases detoxifying properties. You can use it if you’d like, but give in very small amounts. 

Keeping fermented veggies crisp

Some recipes call for adding a black tea bag or grape leaf for the tannins to keep veggies crisp. To be safe, I would avoid using both of these items when making a batch for dogs. Although there are no studies showing that grape leaves are toxic to dogs, too much can cause stomach upset. If you do use a grape leaf, avoid feeding the leaf itself. Caffeine should always be avoided for dogs. While a little bit probably won’t hurt, dogs are much more sensitive to caffeine than humans, so I would avoid using a teabag.

Adding sprig of thyme is a good alternative and has many nutritional benefits for your dog. Thyme is a good antiseptic for the mouth, fights gingivitis, eases any bronchial spasms and is beneficial for irritable bowel, colitis and urinary incontinence. It can also help expel parasites such as hookworms. 

Dogs that might want to pass on the fermented veggies

If your dog has a heart or kidney condition, you may want to pass on feeding fermented veggies that are made from a brine. The sodium content is far too high and causes high blood pressure, which over time, can lead to damage to the organs.

Also, if your dog is allergic to whey, which is one of the more common food allergies, along with wheat, corn, and dairy, you might want to forgo feeding a fermented food made from a whey starter.

For either of these situations, consider using a kinetic culture starter and celery juice for your fermentation batch instead.

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