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 an excellent way to boost your dog’s immunity, aid in digestion, and promote a healthy gut environment.
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 has also used it.
Some cultures use fermentation for food safety in addition to preservation. In West Africa, cassava, a root veggie, is an essential part of the diet, but it contains high cyanide levels. 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 bread that use a technique called biga, such as ciabatta. And of course, we can’t talk about fermented foods without mentioning Greek yogurt!
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 naturally fermented ones. The same goes for those that have been heat-processed or pasteurized. The most significant probiotic benefits come from a natural technique using a salt brine. For a salt-free alternative, you can use a whey starter, celery juice, or both, but while results are more biodiverse, they are often mushy and more likely to grow mold.
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 is a process of lactic acid bacteria converting sugar into lactic acid, which is a preservative. Salt is an integral part of the fermentation process because helps create an environment where pathogens cannot grow. 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 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, Celtic or coarse Sea Salt, 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 canning. Also, they are not shelf-stable. Once the fermentation process is complete, store the jar in your refrigerator.
Easy steps for making fermented veggies at home
Prepare the brine
Dissolve 2 Tbsp of Celtic salt into 4 cups of water. Stir until dissolved.
Fill a clean mason jar with shredded veggies of your choice, packing tight as you go. Using a masher makes the job easier. Adding a spring of thyme will help keep veggies crisp because of its tannins. It will also boost the benefits for your dog.
Fill the jar with the brine until about 1 ½” from top of the jar. Make sure veggies are packed down tight, and you see about ½” of brine floating on top.
If you have a glass weight, you can add it to the top of the jar to keep the veggies packed down in the brine.
Attach the lids. You can use regular 2-piece canning lids and burp them daily to let air in. You can also use airlock fermenter lids or a Perfect Pickler lock. If you are using a Perfect Pickler, add tap water to the lock line and push down gently into the plastic lid that it comes with.
Let the jar sit on the counter out of direct sunlight for four days. Taste and see if you are happy with the sourness. If you would like it a little sourer, allow it to sit for one more day.
Remove the airlock lid and replace it with a two-part canning lid. Adding a square of parchment paper before securing will help prevent lid corrosion.
Always choose organic vegetables when possible. Shred thin and mix well before adding to the jar.
- Sweet potato
- Green bell pepper (stays more crisp than red or yellow)
- Snow peas
- Daikon radish
- Green beans
Cucumber is highly detoxifying on its own, so I’d probably avoid using it 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 a 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.