Sauerkraut is simply thinly shredded cabbage that’s been fermented. It can be either green or red cabbage.
While the Germans may have the market cornered in terms of sauerkraut, fermented cabbage actually goes much farther back in time before any culture could claim it due to the array of health benefits it provides.
Today, Americans may know it best as a condiment for topping hot dogs (with mustard please!) but there’s much more to this nutritious tangy food.
If you’re thinking that since dogs can eat Brussels sprouts, they can eat sauerkraut too, you’re right but there’s also some nuance to consider.
Let’s explore the good and the bad when it comes to giving your dog sauerkraut.
CAN DOGS EAT SAUERKRAUT?
The quick and easy answer is yes, dogs can eat sauerkraut.
But, there are definitely some variables to consider when introducing this nutritious food to your pet.
There are different varieties to consider that can pose potential threats due to added ingredients and side effects that can take a toll on a dog’s digestive tract from consuming too much.
But, there is also a long list of overall health benefits that can come from including sauerkraut in a dog’s diet worth exploring as well.
This fermented cabbage can aid in everything from gut health to bone health while also being a great source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants!
WHAT TYPE OF SAUERKRAUT IS SAFE FOR DOGS?
If you’ve ever been in the grocery store refrigerated section where you’ll find modern day ferments like kimchi and sauerkraut, you’ve definitely seen the variety of options out there.
Between the refrigerated different types of sauerkraut and the kind sold in shelf-stable jars and cans to even homemade sauerkraut, there’s a lot to consider before offering any to your dog.
Homemade kraut is by far the best option if you want to include this food in your dog’s diet. Unlike store-bought varieties you know exactly what ingredients went into the sauerkraut and the amounts.
This is important as ingredients like caraway seeds and excessive salt can often be added to commercially produced sauerkraut, both of which should not be consumed by dogs.
Making homemade sauerkraut is incredibly simple and only requires cabbage, water, salt and a mason jar.
This method, otherwise known as lacto-fermentation allows the natural beneficial bacteria found on the cabbage to convert the sugars in the cabbage into lactic-acid when they’re submerged in the brine solution.
There are many methods for making a homemade sauerkraut recipe which you can easily find with a quick search.
Canned sauerkraut is a bit old school these days as the more modern types are being sold refrigerated and are much higher in the beneficial bacteria (aka probiotics).
However, it is safe to feed your dog canned store-bought sauerkraut if preferred just be cautious of the ingredient list.
Choose a brand with the least amount of sodium and make sure to avoid added ingredients to commercially produced sauerkraut that are toxic to dogs such as garlic, onions, leeks and especially, caraway seeds.
These seeds are a frequent addition to sauerkraut and almost synonymous with that distinct kraut flavor.
Caraway seeds are toxic to dogs, however, and should be avoided at all costs.
This type is also safe for canine consumption.
Its intense cabbage smell and taste, however, may deter your dog from wanting to try it.
Can’t really blame him, can you?
HOW MUCH SAUERKRAUT SHOULD A DOG EAT?
No matter which type or variety you choose to feed your dog, portion size is important.
As with all vegetables and foods outside their normal diet which should always consist of a high-quality AAFCO approved dog food, moderation is key.
Start with small amounts and a little at a time. Treat sauerkraut like a condiment (which it is!) not a major component of your dog’s diet just like you do for herbs like basil.
HOW TO FEED SAUERKRAUT TO DOGS
Because the smell is so pungent, many dogs will refuse to eat sauerkraut. You may want to mask the strong smell by mixing it with a food you know your dog loves.
Applesauce has long been used to get dogs to take medications they won’t otherwise swallow and it can also be used to introduce sauerkraut into their diet if they’re being picky.
Other options are mixing it into wet food or serving along with some chicken or broth in their food dish. Pairing the sauerkraut with a food they’re highly motivated by usually does the trick.
Another tip to help remove the smell is to lightly rinse the sauerkraut under water. This helps make it more palatable.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SAUERKRAUT
Sauerkraut like all fermented foods is incredibly nutritious.
Because of the fermentation process, it’s loaded with beneficial probiotics which can be great for a dog’s digestive health.
In addition to those natural lactic acid bacteria, sauerkraut is packed with a long list of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. It can strengthen the health of your dog’s bones, eyes and coat as well!
Probiotics plain and simple are “good bacteria”. They’ve accumulated quite the following over the last 10 years or so in human health and all those benefits translate over to canines as well.
When probiotics are introduced to the gut, they help maintain a healthy balance of good vs. bad bacteria to keep a happy equilibrium.
Because sauerkraut is a great source of probiotics, it can support and protect your dog against overgrowths of bad bacteria like candida (yeast), E. coli and salmonella.
It’s important to know that these amazing beneficial bacteria are destroyed by heat. Therefore, this benefit is solely found in homemade or refrigerated sauerkraut not canned store-bought varieties.
Probiotics are also immune-supporting. A healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut helps maintain the integrity of the gut lining. When this lining is strong it prohibits anything from “leaking” through.
Leaky gut is strongly tied with reduced immunity so including probiotics can help keep your dog’s immune system strong.
NUTRITIONAL BREAKDOWN OF SAUERKRAUT
Sauerkraut provides an array of nutritional benefits.
It’s packed vitamin C and boasts substantial levels of K1, iron, vitamin B6, folate, copper, manganese and potassium.
Not to mention, 1 cup of sauerkraut provides a whopping 4g of fiber.
Besides the gut-loving probiotics in sauerkraut, the high fiber content is another way in which this cruciferous ferment can support your dog’s gastrointestinal health.
Fiber helps prevent constipation, bloating and excessive gas. It can also surprisingly help stop diarrhea or loose stools.
For dogs with IBS or even just sensitive stomachs, fiber-rich foods can be an incredible addition to their diet.
BONE AND SKIN HEALTH
Both the vitamin K and phytonutrients (compounds found in all different plants) help support bone health.
Vitamin K will also support strong teeth in your dog by preventing gum disease.
Phytonutrients act as anti-inflammatory compounds that fight free radicals in the body.
If your dog suffers from arthritis or joint pain in general, plant foods are a great natural way to help lessen their pain.
The vitamin A found in sauerkraut is long known to be beneficial for eye health. It’s an antioxidant that will reduce the formation of cataracts and can also assist with dull coats or dry skin.
IS SAUERKRAUT BAD FOR DOGS?
On the whole, no, sauerkraut is not bad for dogs. As we’ve seen, it can be a wonderfully healthy addition to their diet but, there are some things to look out for.
Sodium levels won’t be a problem if you make your own sauerkraut which is really the best option. If buying canned or store-bought varieties, however, be mindful of the sodium content on the nutrition label.
Too much salt can lead to dehydration, stomach upset or even hypertension.
When feeding your dog any salty food, make sure there is plentiful access to fresh water.
Dogs cannot eat sauerkraut with caraway seeds (sometimes called fennel seeds). These seeds are toxic to dogs (as stated by the ASPCA) and need to be avoided. In large amounts they can even be fatal.
If your dog has accidentally consumed caraway seeds in sauerkraut call your vet immediately and be on the lookout for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, disorientation and shivering.
Oftentimes, garlic and sometimes onion will be added to sauerkraut for flavor. As both these ingredients are also toxic to dogs, it’s important to choose or make varieties without them.
SHOULD DOGS EAT SAUERKRAUT?
In conclusion, can dogs eat sauerkraut?
Yes, the benefits can be widespread from including this nutritious fermented food in your dog’s diet.
In moderation and with a bit of caution, homemade versions can be a healthful addition for your furry friend.
If you’re unable to get your dog to eat sauerkraut and want to try other vegetables that can provide similar benefits, try some of these:
Remember that not all condiments, are ok for dogs to eat. Sauerkraut can be a healthy one for dogs but others like ketchup should be approached with caution.