I have a 7-pound pooch that spends more time in my lap than any pet I’ve ever had. Making homemade food for him, rather than relying on Purina, has been a joy. He loves rice, turkey, eggs and even fruits and vegetables. I even give him yogurt. In “Fermented Food for Dogs and Cats,” Chris explains why your four-footed friends need a healthy gut just as much as you do.
Is it Safe to Feed Fermented Foods to Dogs and Cats?
Dogs and cats benefit from probiotics in the same way that humans do. Their gut microbiome is the key to good health and longevity. Pets with a strong healthy microbiome have:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less trouble with dental carries, gum disease, and plaque
- Healthier bowel movements
- Less stomach ulcers
- Less dermatitis and skin issues
- Fewer ear infections
- Less trouble with parasites
- Fewer cancers
- Fewer post-operative infections (MRSA)
- Less hypothyroidism
- Healthier weight
- Fewer gut problems
- More stable blood sugar
Dogs and cats in the wild are predators. They get naturally fermented food by eating the stomach contents of their prey. They also scavenge scat from prey animals, which contains beneficial bacteria. This is how they keep their own gut microbiome healthy. Wild dogs and cats have no problems with tooth decay, gum disease, itchy skin, ear infections, bad breath, diabetes, and other illnesses of the domestic dogs and cats, which don’t get the same access to prey animals.
What can harm your pet’s microbiome
While domestic dogs and cats begin with a disadvantage, antibiotics can further harm your pet’s microbiome. Antibiotics from the vet can kill beneficial bacteria while allowing harmful bacteria and yeast to colonize the gut and the skin. However, even if you avoid giving antibiotics to your pet, if you are feeding commercial pet food, there may be antibiotics in the meat used to make the kibbles. Conventionally raised commercial meat also has the potential to deliver antibiotics to your pet. Even if you use a raw diet, if the meat you are feeding is not pasture raised or organic, your pet may be ingesting antibiotics. In these circumstances, recolonizing your pet’s microbiome with beneficial bacteria is important to your pet’s health.
Vets often recommend adding an expensive probiotic supplement to a pet’s diet to improve the balance of gut bacteria. But the quick motility of the canine and feline gut makes it difficult for commercial probiotics to colonize. Powdered supplements lack the effectiveness of fresh, fermented food.
Can you feed sauerkraut to cats and dogs?
On the other hand did you ever try to get a cat to eat sauerkraut? Unless you start them on fermented vegetables when they are kittens, it’s hard to get them to eat them as adults. So while fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles can improve your pet’s health, not all pets will eat them readily.
What fermented food is easiest to start with?
Generally the easiest fermented foods to introduce to your pet’s diet are fermented milk products. You want these fermented milk products to have live bacterial culture, so avoid commercial cheese and yogurt that doesn’t list live culture on the label. Kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese, soft and hard cheese are all viable fermented foods that can enhance your pet’s health. While many vets recommend avoiding feeding milk to dogs and cats, fermented dairy products are an exception.
Don’t start with a quart of kefir, though. Any sudden change in your pet’s diet can result in diarrhea and other gut issues. Begin with just a couple tablespoons for a 60 pound dog or 1 teaspoon of kefir for a 10 pound cat. Add it to their regular food ration or mix it in with some canned fish, meat stew or raw meat. The key to improving your pet’s microbiome is consistency over time. The daily addition of fermented food to your pet’s diet offers a gradual improvement in her health and well being.
Introducing other fermented foods like sauerkraut, carrots or kimchi to your pet’s diet should also be done a small amount at a time, over a week or two. Whenever you introduce a new food note how it affects your pet. If they get loose stools or severe itching, cut back until the reaction stops. Pets can have allergies just like people. When it comes to probiotics and fermented foods, it’s the small amounts added consistently over time that will make a difference in your pet’s health.
After years of adding fermented food to our pets’ raw food diet, both dogs and cats now readily eat fermented dairy products. The dogs also will eat fermented vegetables, provided they aren’t too spicy. On the other hand, the cats just walk away from the food dish when I put a few fermented carrots in. If I was starting over now, I’d introduce fermented foods as soon as they were eating solid food to get them off on a solid start.
Do you feed fermented food to your pets? What have you had the most success with?
Whether you are fermenting foods for yourself, or your furry friends, you need the best tools for the job. Visit the Fermentools store for everything you need, from salt to lids and weights.