For those of you with an adventurous eater that you just found in the pantry looking guilty, here’s the short answer: yes, dogs can eat sauerkraut.
Should dogs eat sauerkraut though? That is highly dependent on the ingredients and quality of the sauerkraut.
Here we will go into common sauerkraut preparations, some of the health benefits, and in what situations it is harmful to your pup.
Sauerkraut Nutrition and Fun Facts
First off, what is sauerkraut? Sauerkraut is comprised of finely sliced raw cabbage that is fermented with beneficial bacteria called lactic acid. The fermentation of the sugars in the cabbage leave a sour, vaguely sweet. and pickled cabbage dish that is delicious, nutritious, and can even prevent scurvy!
Though the name Americans use is German, the origins of sauerkraut are hotly contested. Some historians theorize that it originated in the Mongol Empire. Others attribute this tasty dish to ancient China and believe it was brought to Europe by the Tartars.
The historical battle rages on, but the health benefits of sauerkraut are not up for debate.
Health Benefits of Sauerkraut for Dogs
Vitamins and Minerals
Cabbage is rich in vitamin C and K, and the fermentation process that produces sauerkraut actually increases the bioavailability of those nutrients. Though dogs can get along fine without additional vitamin C and K, a healthy amount can improve brain functioning, boost the immune system, and support red blood cell health.
Sauerkraut also has a little calcium and magnesium (for healthy bones), folate and iron (for red blood cell production), manganese (for protein absorption and antioxidants), copper (for silky fur), and potassium (for kidney functioning).
Probiotics and Fiber
When sauerkraut is uncooked and unpasteurized, it contains the helpful probiotic bacteria lactobacilli. These awesome microbes can promote healthy gut flora, prevent diseases common to the digestive tract, and generally improve your dog’s ability to absorb nutrients and break down food.
And whatever way it is prepared, all that cabbage has boatloads of fiber! Fiber is a key nutrient for maintaining smooth, regular digestive flow and can improve the quality of your dog’s digestion.
Dogs with sensitive bellies or irregular bowel movements may see an improvement in their digestive health with the cautious addition of foods like sauerkraut. But moderation and careful preparation are key, as you will see in this next section that details how sauerkraut could be harmful to your pup.
Can Sauerkraut Be Bad for Dogs?
Overall, sauerkraut is not harmful to dogs in moderation. The amount that constitutes too much is generally dependent on your dog’s unique constitution. Excessive amounts of any food can be bad for a dog, so foray into this new culinary territory with caution and care.
Be advised, however, that this cabbage fermentation is notorious for causing wicked flatulence. We don’t recommend feeding your pup sauerkraut and then taking a long car ride together!
There are a few situations, however, in which sauerkraut can be quite harmful to your pooch.
If you did not make your sauerkraut yourself, you will need to check the ingredient list before letting Fido have a taste. While sauerkraut is traditionally just fermented cabbage, some brands add spices or veggies for an extra zing.
Here are some ingredients to avoid:
If your dog has a particularly sensitive stomach, the strong probiotics in sauerkraut may cause diarrhea or an upset tummy at first. Many animals need time and a gradual introduction to fermented foods to let their bodies learn how to handle them, so proceed with caution.
Ingesting excessive quantities of sauerkraut, on the other hand, is a one-way-ticket to messy poops and noxious flatulence. If your dog eats a large amount of sauerkraut, and especially if they haven’t eaten it before, you’ll have a sick dog on your hands.
If it is within business hours, call your veterinarian for advice. If it is a nighttime incident, stay awake with them so you can let them outside when they need to use the bathroom or vomit. Provide plenty of clean water to keep your poor, furry friend hydrated and help cleanse their system.
How to Feed Sauerkraut to Your Dogs
Because of the incredible restorative and supportive powers of sauerkraut for the digestive system, you may want to give your dog a little sauerkraut regularly. Raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut in small portions is the best way to let your dog try this sour, delectable cabbage dish.
And homemade is even better! That way you are completely in control of the quality of ingredients and can keep your batch safe, clean, and healthy for your best friend.
Some dogs may turn their nose up at the vinegary smell. If you want to incentivize them to eat some, try soaking it in cold water and apple juice to reduce the intensity of the aroma.
You can also hide small amounts in their usual food for a sneaky approach. Try chopping up a tablespoon or so of sauerkraut and mixing it into a can of wet dog food.
Final Thoughts on Feeding Sauerkraut to Your Dog
So, can dogs eat sauerkraut? Why yes, they certainly can!
And, oddly enough, some dogs may even benefit greatly with the addition of raw, unpasteurized, probiotic-packed sauerkraut.
With good quality sauerkraut in the right proportions, your pup will soon be saying “Danke schön!”
Featured Image: Stephen Pearson, Flickr CC 2.0