Fermented vegetables are created by what is known as a lacto-fermentation process. It’s a process whereby bacteria and yeasts break down sugars in foods and form lactic acid. It’s almost like a pre-digestion process in a way. Breaking down the sugars this way starts the digestion process of the ingredients used. In a strange way, while breaking down or pre-digesting the plants’ sugars, bacteria actually extend the shelf-life of the indgredients used. Lacto-fermented foods include yogurt, kimchi, saurekraut, kombucha kefir and sourdough. So what does all this have to do with dogs. Well, as strange as it might sound, fermented vegetables for dogs are very much on today’s canine menu!
Dogs need vegetables in their diet
We all know that dogs need vegetables in their diet. Trust me, despite what some raw feeders might tell you, vegetables are important in the diet of my dog and yours. They provide fibre and nutrients, phytonutrients and antioxidants not available in meat and bones. And of course, dogs have always eaten vegetables in one way or another. Always!
The magical and perhaps macabre thing about fermented vegetables for dogs though is the fact that they very much mimic the dog’s ancestral diet. Because fermenting vegetables starts the digestion process for a dog. It allows the dog access to nutrients that it may not normally be able to benefit from because of its short digestive tract and its limited ability to produce the necessary digestive enzymes to break down vegetables into nutrients. That means that most vegetables pass through a dog undigested. They leave the dog’s body the same way they went in. With all the nutrients locked inside.
Your dog’s ancestral diet
But the thing about a dog’s ancestral diet is that it when it consumed smaller mammals, it would also have consumed that animal’s digestive tract. And that digestive tract would have contained the plant material the prey animal had eaten. That would have included grasses, seeds and wild fruit. And, as if you haven’t already guessed it, it would have contained vegetables.
Importantly here though, those vegetables inside the digestive tract of its prey would have been predigested. Broken down by bacteria in the animal’s gut. Effectively pre-digesting them, in just the same way fermenting vegetables does, only in a slightly less gory manner. Lightly cooking them if you like. And in the process, allowing the dog access to the valuable nutrients locked inside.
Fermented vegetables provide probiotics
The history of fermenting vegetables dates back thousands of years. Some sources suggest it may have started in Asia around 8000 BC. That’s an awful long time ago!
What we do know is that the First Agricultural Revolution began some 12-15,000 years ago. That’s the period in time when human beings began to put down roots. Literally. That’s when they gave up their roaming and foraging lifestyle and began to establish settlements. The point in time when they began to cultivate and grow their own foods. The moment they began to find ways to preserve their produce for the long, leaner, winter months. One of these ways, whether by accident or design, would have been the process of fermenting vegetables!
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Benefits of fermented vegetables for dogs
Fermented vegetables have much to offer your dog in the way of benefits:
They provide valuable nutrients not available from meat and bones
Help create beneficial gut bacteria in the form of probiotics
They boost your dog’s immune system
Fermented vegetables help detoxify your dog’s body
The fermenting process makes the nutrients in vegetables more bioavailable to your dog
How to ferment your dog’s vegetables
There are many ways to ferment your dog’s vegetables. You can get all technical and jar them. Personally, I use a simpler method. I simply boil up the vegetable trimmings from my own table, add them to a tub in the water they were boiled in, and let them sit in the fridge for a few days. No expense, no mess, no waste!
How to feed your dog fermented vegetables
My own dogs love their fermented vegetables. It brings tears to my eyes watching two hulking great German Shepherds hungrily tucking into a bowl of nothing more than fermented vegetables for their supper. Their heads don’t leave their bowls until every last drop has been devoured.
If however fermented veggies are not to your dog’s personal taste, try mixing a little in with their food. Start slow just to avoid either waste or digestive upset, and build up to one to two teaspoons per day per 10 kilos of your dog’s body weight.