Despite being a fan of fermented fish stock and kefir for a long time, I only began thinking about fermented vegetables last summer. As people in my raw feeding group started talking about fermenting vegetables, I became curious about the benefits for my dogs. Would adding fermented foods to Rodrigo's diet help his gut health?
Thanks to several rounds of antibiotics, Rodrigo has a compromised gut and requires daily doses of probiotics. Today, I alternate the following in his diet:
- Bio Case Plus (a pancreas supplement)
- FullBucket Daily Canine Powder
- Olewo Carrots
- Raw Goats Milk (offered by Answers Pet Food milk or source from a local creamery)
- Kefir (offered by Answers Pet Food or you can make your own)
That's a lot. It's not bad, but it's a lot. And two of the supplements cost approximately $45/month (and last two months). Could fermented vegetables save money while helping my dog?
Benefits of Fermented Vegetables for Dogs
I've been a believer in the benefits of adding vegetables to my dogs' diet for a long time. While some people state that dogs lack digestive enzymes in their saliva and in their gut, this isn't exactly correct. Their pancreas produces digestive enzymes, just not always enough to break down food (especially Rodrigo).
- Protease – breaks down protein
- Amylase – breaks down carbs and starches
- Lipase – breaks down fat
- Cellulase – breaks down fiber (vegetables)
Because our dogs aren't producing enough of these enzymes, digestive supplements are an important part of their diet. This is also why I think fermented vegetables are superior to pureed vegetables for dogs. We puree vegetables for dogs to break down the cellular wall so that they can absorb the nutrients; but are our dogs really benefiting from pureed vegetables? It's a lot of work only for our dogs to poop the food out, right?
On the other hand, when we ferment the vegetables, we're creating a food that closely resembles the stomach contents of prey. Yes, there is the argument that wolves shake out the stomach prey, however, I'm not raising wolves and my dogs have caught wild rabbits and they go for the gut every time. Why?
EASY TO DIGEST: Fermented foods are easier to digest and don't make the gut work hard to break down and absorb the nutrients in the food.
PROBIOTICS: Fermented foods provide healthy, natural probiotics for gut health. And because this is a natural source of probiotics, it may replace commercial supplements for many dogs, saving us money.
BETTER IMMUNE SYSTEM: Fermented foods help improve gut health, which frees up the immune system can do its job; helping to decrease allergies and inflammation. Healthy gut, healthy dog!
ANTIOXIDANTS FIGHT CANCER: Fermented vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients (a substance found in many plants that supports good health and prevents disease).
Recipe for Fermented Vegetables for Dogs
I follow a recipe from the Canine Ascension Facebook page. The first time, I only used one green cabbage, one red cabbage, and one carrot. The second time, I got a little more creative.
This recipe produced 8 jars of fermented vegetables. I have four dogs and we'll go through these vegetables quickly (plus I eat them too).
- 2 bundles of kale or collard greens (I prefer collard greens)
- 1 green cabbage
- 1 red cabbage
- 5 small zucchini
- 1 bundle of asparagus
- 2-1/2 tbsp of sea salt (don't use table salt)
- water (as needed)
Keep in mind that you can make fermented vegetables using two heads of cabbage and 1 tbsp of sea salt. If this is your first time, I recommend starting small and building up. For me, this created 3 jars of fermented vegetables.
Equipment for Fermenting
- Easy Fermenter Set (Lids and Pump)
- Easy Fermenter Weights
- Packer (optional)
- Ball Wide Mouth Mason Jars
- Stainless Steel Bowls
Making Fermented Vegetables for Dogs
*Peel the top layer of leaves from the cabbages and set aside for use later.
*Chop up all of the vegetables as finely as possible; the list of vegetables above will fill two 8-quart stainless steel bowls. If only using 2 heads of cabbage, you'll fill one 8-quart stainless steel bowl.
*Add a 1-1/4 tbsp of freshly ground sea salt to each bowl and massaged the vegetables until they become wet (add 1 tbsp if only using 2 heads of cabbage). The salt helps to bring the water out of the vegetables, which is going to be the brine to help with fermenting. The salt also serves as food for the bacteria (there is very little salt remaining when the fermentation is complete).
*Allow the bowls of vegetables sit for 20 minutes, then return to massage the vegetables again. You'll notice that the vegetables seem to be shrinking and liquid (this is your brine) begins to collect at the bottom of the bowl. I started with a bowl overflowing with vegetables and after massaging twice, there were 3 inches of room at the top of each bowl.
*Repeat the message/sit for one or two more times; if there isn't a good amount of liquid (the brine) in the bottom of the bowl (see video below) then add a small amount of water.
*Spoon the vegetables into each of the jars, using a large, flexible spoon to press the vegetables down. This removes any air pockets and makes room for more vegetables. You can also purchase a packer (see list above) to help with this step.
*When the vegetables are evenly distributed and packed down tight, add the cabbage leaves (pack down again), and then add one weight per jar. Seal each jar with the Easy Fermenter lids (see list above).
*Ferment vegetables for 20 days (10 days in the summer), the Easy Fermenter lids allow you to dial to the date when the fermentation is complete. I use the pump that comes in the kit to remove any excess air each week until the vegetables ready; this is optional.
Isn't Salt Bad for Dogs?
The salt used to ferment vegetables helps to bring the liquid out of the vegetables and serves as food for the growing bacteria that ferments the vegetables. When the vegetables are ready, they taste amazing – you won't be able to taste the salt. This small amount of salt isn't bad for dogs or humans; excess salt is something we want to avoid.
How Do I Know When the Fermentation is Done?
The beauty of the Easy Fermenter system is that it's super easy. Dialing to the date that the ferment is done is when the ferment is done.
- 20 days during cooler months
- 10 days during hotter months
Will My Dogs Eat Fermented Vegetables?
I can't promise that your dogs will eat fermented vegetables so if you'd like to try it out, I recommend buying fermented vegetables in the refrigerated section of a local, natural grocery store. I tried Bubbies and Firefly Kitchens with my dogs. Avoid fermented vegetables with onions.
Or you can make a test batch and see how they like them.
Feeding Guidelines for Fermented Vegetables
There are people who believe that 20% or more of a dog's diet should be vegetation. I disagree, however, this may change as I learn more about dog nutrition.
I feed my dogs a 1 tablespoon (usually a heaping spoonful) of fermented vegetables per meal.
If your dog is new to eating fermented vegetables, start small and work your way up to allow their gut to get used to this new treat. And if your dog simply WILL NOT eat the fermented vegetables, no worries, stick with digestive supplements; I recommend the following:
- FullBucket Daily Canine Powder (probiotics + digestive supplement)
- In Clover Optagest* (a prebiotic, which is food for probiotics, the healthy bacteria in the gut)
*Keep the Tail Wagging® readers receive 10% off all In Clover supplements when they use the code KTTW10 at check out.
Can I Freeze Fermented Vegetables?
Once the ferment is complete, I move a couple of jars to the fridge and the rest to a cold area (garage or cellar). The cold temperatures slow the fermentation. I've read that fermented vegetables can be stored for up to a year. Once opened, I keep them in the fridge for up to two weeks.
You can freeze fermented vegetables; simply transfer the contents of the jar to a freezer-safe container for freezing. While the fridge or cold storage slows the fermentation, freezing stops it.
Do You Ferment Fruit for Dogs?
While you can ferment fruit, I choose not to do so due to the sugar content of fruit. At the moment, I'm still learning about fermenting foods for my dogs and plan to stick with vegetables as I continue to do my homework.
If you're interested in fermenting seeds and fruit read this post by Canine Ascension.
Don't Forget the Prebiotics
Now that you have a natural, DIY way of introducing healthy probiotics into your dog's gut, you want to keep those probiotics well fed. A healthy gut biome has been attributed to extending a dog's life; all of the longest living pets have a healthy gut. One way to keep their gut healthy and full of beneficial bacteria is to feed the probiotics. That's why I say “don't forget the prebiotics.” Prebiotics are the food for probiotics.
I give my dogs In Clover Optagest. It keeps my dogs' guts healthy, helps them digest food efficiently, and helps with weight loss if a dog is overweight.
Learn More About Fermenting Vegetables for Dogs
Because I'm simply sharing what I'm doing for my dogs, you may find it helpful to read up on fermenting vegetables from the various sources I found online.
- Fermented Vegetables: Finicky Pets Might Not Like This Superfood, But It's a Potent Cancer Fighter – Dr. Karen Becker
- Fermented Foods for Dogs and Cats – Dr. Heartway
- Fermented Foods for Dogs – Animal Wellness Magazine
- Fermented Veggies for Your Dog – Canine Ascension
- Fermented Pumpkin Seeds for Your Dog – Canine Ascension
- Super Dog Food: DIY Fermented Vegetables – Dogstralia
- 5 Advantages and Disadvantages of Fermented Foods – ConnectUsFund.org