Fermented Foods and Your Pet
Fermentation. Best known for bringing us beer, yogurt, kimchee, and sauerkraut. But did you know that the process of fermentation can provide a whole host of health benefits, for both you and your pet? Read on!
What exactly is fermentation?
Fermentation is a process of food preservation that is thousands of years old. As early as 7,000 BC, ancient Babylonians were using fermentation to make beer! In addition to alcohol fermentation, there is lactic acid fermentation, which can be used on dairy, fruit, and vegetables. This is the type of fermentation we will be focusing on today.
Fermentation works by purposefully adding bacteria, yeast, or molds to a food in order to bring about changes to the food. These microbes then feed off of the food, partially digesting it and breaking down the cells, making it more easily digestible and giving it a tangy, pungent flavor.
What are the benefits of fermented food?
In addition to making the food easier to digest, the good bacteria used in the fermentation process are powerful probiotics that can help improve the balance of the flora in your pet’s gut. Not having enough of these good bacteria can cause a whole host of problems, including stomach upset, diarrhea, and gas. Most pets eat a processed kibble diet, and one of the side effects of this processing is to kill off any bacteria, including beneficial ones, present in the food. Commercial probiotics can help, but the bacteria from fermented foods are superior to most commercially available probiotics because they are actively living in the food when it is ingested, and fermented foods generally provide a greater number and wider variety of the good bacteria than any commercial probiotic.
In the wild, dogs and cats would consume most of their vegetables from the stomachs of their prey. Fermentation mimics the partially digested state these foods would ordinarily be found in, and aids in the absorption of vitamins and enzymes that are great for your pet. As an added bonus, the lactic acid that is produced by the process has cancer preventing and immune boosting properties!
How to feed fermented food to your pet:
Some pets, particularly dogs, will happily eat anything that is handed to them. In these cases, you’ll want to start with a small amount and work your way up to roughly two teaspoons per twenty pounds of body weight per day. Easing in slowly over a couple of weeks will help ensure that this diet change does not cause any digestive distress for your pet. For pets that are more fussy, especially cats, you may need to start with an even smaller amount, just a hint of the fermented food, and ease them in even more gradually to get them used to the taste. Fermented food has a strong, pungent taste – think kimchee or sauerkraut. Some particularly choosey pets may never accept the taste, in which case you may want to consider a commercial probiotic.
It is fine to purchase pre-made fermented fruits and vegetables as long as they do not contain onions. You can also make fermented foods yourself – we like this how-to from Dr. Angie Krause!
What do you think? Have you experienced any health benefits from fermented foods, either personally or for your pet? Let us know!