When looking at getting more probiotics into your dog’s diet, there are a few natural alternatives you may want to consider instead of expensive supplements. Certain types of food you can feed your dog contain a lot more beneficial bacteria than many of the probiotics for dogs available on the market. These foods are available to make or purchase at a fraction of the cost.
Two such foods are kefir for dogs and fresh sauerkraut. These foods are easily made or purchased at your local supermarket. They contain more strains of bacteria and probiotics than many of the leading tablet supplements.
What is kefir for dogs ?
Kefir for dogs is generally a dairy based food made by fermenting Kefir grains and contains a multitude of vitamins and minerals. More importantly, Kefir provide a wide variety of probiotic organisms with super dupper healing qualities. It is usually both a similar taste and consistency to yogurt, except that it contains a lot more helpful bacteria for your dog’s digestive system.
You might be thinking that since regular dairy milk, which can cause lactose intolerance in dogs that cannot digest the sugar lactose in milk, means that kefir for dogs isn’t a good idea.
However, although made by fermenting milk, kefir is actually lactose free. This is because those helpful bacteria in it also help break down the lactose and aids in the digestion of lactose. Hence it is safe and healthy for all dogs.
Only the very best dog probiotics can come close to competing with the benefits of this one food source. The bulk of Kefir grains are a combination of insoluble protein, amino acids, lipids and complex sugars. In addition, kefir contain 30 different strains of good bacteria and yeast.
One tablespoon of kefir for dogs can contain almost 5 billion beneficial bacteria. At around $5 per pint to purchase, this is a lot cheaper than many supplements containing probiotics for dogs.
How to include kefir for dogs into the diet:
Since kefir for dogs does contain such a high concentration of good bacteria, introducing it slowly into your dog’s diet is recommended to allow their system time to adjust to the increased levels.
Try starting with plain, unflavored kefir and feed roughly 1-2 teaspoons daily for every 16 pounds of dog as a daily food topper. If the result is favorable and your pet seems to like it, you can also experiment with a few dog-safe flavors, such as blueberry or strawberry.
Once the food has been slowly incorporated, the amount can be slightly increased but always monitor your dog’s reaction to this and should any side effects become apparent seek veterinary advice.
Caution: Sugar and artificial sweeteners are dangerous for dogs, so make sure you purchase plain, natural kefir for dogs and not a product with any added ingredients that could cause illness.
What about sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is a mixture of salt (around 1.5%) and fresh cabbage which is then packed away and allowed to ferment for around 7-8 weeks. Fresh sauerkraut contains around 13 different strands of bacteria and about 100 times more probiotics than probiotic dog supplements available on the market today.
Again as with kefir above, sauerkraut contains a very concentrated level of probiotics and should be introduced into a dog’s diet slowly to allow the body to adjust to the increased number of good flora in the gastroenteritis tract.
Can these be home-made?
Yes, both Kefir and Sauerkraut can be made at home and instructions on how to do this can be found on a number of different websites.
For making your own Kefir at home, you can order Kefir grains and supplies from Amazon:
A basic recipe to make Kefir for dogs is as follows:
- In clean, clear glass jar, add kefir grains and whole milk (about 1-2 tsps per 32 oz jar).
- Cover the jar with a paper towel or coffee filter and use a rubberband to keep it sealed.
- Let jar sit in a warm stop (68-85°F) for about 24 hours until kefir has the consistency of buttermilk.
- Using a fine non-metallic plastic or nylon strainer, separate the grains from milk.
- Store the finished kefir in refrigerator until consumed.
- Place grains in another 32 oz jar of milk to make another batch.
Here is an excellent youtube video from veterinarian Dr. Angie Krause on making kefir for dogs:
Are there disadvantages to not using supplemented forms of probiotics for dogs?
As mentioned above, yes both of these food sources are cheaper and can be home-made to provide good probiotics for dogs, however, they are not going to be an exact measurement or dosage due to them being more natural organic form.
With probiotic dog supplements, it can clearly be seen exactly what is included in them and how much to safely give. With the more natural food forms, this is not as clear and the exact doses or levels in each serving will vary. Still, by slowly introducing natural forms you can successfully and inexpensively introduce probiotics into your dog’s diet.
To learn more about probiotics for people, see six healthy benefits from probiotics.