By now, most pet owners know that the adage about not giving your pooch “people food” is a bit inaccurate. While nutrition should always be catered to canine needs and those of your individual pet, feeding Fido human ingredients and even small amounts of human meals isn’t a bad thing in moderation. In fact, many of the items on your personal menu also have benefits for your doggy family members.
One of the most recent trends in eats that do good involves the age-old process of fermentation. From beer to sauerkraut to kimchi, fermentation is a biological wonder when it comes to making tasty items for our plates. Fermented foods also have numerous health benefits, many of which can also benefit your dog.
In order to understand the benefits of fermentation for your dog, you should understand just what the process is and how it works. Fermented foods are made by adding bacteria, yeast or mold to perfectly bacteria-free foods such as vegetables. These microbes start to feed off the veggies and grow in numbers, partially digesting proteins and other nutrients in the foods. When people digest food, our bodies use up nutrients and get rid of the waste. When bacteria go to town on fermented foods they will break down cellular walls making the nutrients more accessible to digestion.
Modern, dry-kibble based diets are often cooked at very high temperatures, eliminating much of the digestive enzymes and nutrients and making what is remaining less bio-available. In addition, the use of antibiotics in modern meat raising processes can contribute to killing off good bacteria that your dog’s body needs to perform basic functions.
Feeding your pooch foods that have been partially digested by good bacteria (aka fermented) has a number of amazing health benefits. For starters, fermented foods are chock full of probiotics. You’ve probably heard of probiotics as supplements or in commercials for yogurt. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that, when consumed in appropriate quantities, help restore, support and increase gut flora which is the fancy word for the natural system of bacteria in your dog’s intestines that helps them digest food. Good gut flora decreases diarrhea and upset stomach, helps control gas, and has an overall positive impact on your pet’s health since a healthy gut equals a healthy body!
Fermenting foods can also help aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients. When vegetables are fermented, the bacteria eat away at the tough outer cellular walls. When your dog eats fermented veggies, their system can more readily access these nutrients thanks to the head start given by the fermentation process. Fermenting increases levels of vitamins B, C, K2 and lots of good-for-Fido enzymes. Think of fermentation as a helpful delivery system for all kinds of good vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.
The lactic acid that is produced in the fermentation process has been shown to have potent anti-cancer effects, a big plus for extending your pup’s longevity and overall quality of life. Fermented veggies are great for helping rid your dog’s body of toxins such as heavy metals.
While many foods may not be the best for sharing a meal with Fido (think ice cream, chocolate, onions and more) fermented veggies are beneficial to both canines and their people. While dogs are mainly carnivores, up to 30% of their diet can come from added fruits and veggies. Fermenting vegetables for your pet helps increase the amount of certain vitamins and nutrients in addition to making it easier for your dog to absorb those items. Finally, fermentation is a great way to get a big dose of helpful probiotics, which aid in digestion and overall health. So, the next time you spoon into a pile of fermented cabbage, broccoli, carrots or more, don’t forget to spoon out a portion for your dog. This is one meal you’ll be happy to have Fido begging for!