Honestly, I was quite surprised when I learned that this question was among Kefir‘s most frequently asked ones. Indeed: is Kefir good for dogs?
The short answer is that dogs, as mammals closely related to humans, have almost the same reactions to Kefir as we do. In other words, Kefir normally has as numerous beneficial effects on dogs as it has on humans.
The health-promoting benefits of kefir, comprising improved gastrointestinal bacterial balance, allergy control, wound-healing properties, cholesterol regulation, and numerous antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, are well documented and described in detail throughout our website. And, of course, we should never forget the most important power of kefir – its ability to balance and harmonize the composition and activity of the gut’s microbial population (a.k.a. gut microbiota).
Beyond any doubt, all of these beneficial effects of kefir are equally relevant to us humans and our pet dogs.
But there’s more to be said concerning dogs …
What’s typical for dogs’ food?
Dogs are usually fed with pellet food containing all nutrients, minerals, and vitamins needed for a healthy dog. At least, that’s what pellet manufacturers claim, but unfortunately, this is rarely true.
Most dog pellet foods are specially formulated to feed carnivorous animals, such as our dogs, and normally supply them with most of the nutrients carnivores need. However, these pellets rarely hold all the vitamins we get by eating fruits and vegetables and seldom include any probiotics we consume with yogurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, or other fermented products.
Although these dog pellets are often labeled as “complete and balanced”, most contain bone meal, offal, and other animal by-products that may create an unbalanced microbiota in the dog’s gastrointestinal tract leading to persistent health problems.
Several studies suggest that the gut microbiota of the dog is similar to the one of its owners due to the similar environment they live in. As a result, the absence of all needed vitamins and probiotics in pellet food may lead to higher dogs’ susceptibility to disease development.
By the way, this nutritional deficiency is often clearly visible when your dog starts eating grass. While this is quite a common occurrence, grazing is usually a sign that your dog is instinctively trying to compensate for the deficiency of fibers and vitamins in its everyday food.
Common symptoms of such deficiency may include bad breath, diarrhea, gas, cramping, etc.
Along with the expected gastrointestinal troubles, the unbalanced gut microbiome of the dog may also lead to a series of skin conditions and even behavioral problems.
How can Kefir help?
The introduction of a powerful probiotic food to the dog’s diet can lead to a series of positive effects on its health, and kefir comes first.
Above all, by introducing a host of beneficial probiotic bacteria, kefir will restore the microbial balance in the dog’s gut microbiome. This will inevitably lead to improved digestion with a long-lasting effect because kefir microorganisms will “colonize” the intestines and bower of the dog and stay there for a long time.
However, the health benefits of kefir for your dog go far beyond positively affecting digestion. Kefir actually influences many parts of your dog’s organism, including its immune system, heart, skin, and may inhibit all inflammatory processes within the dog’s body.
Kefir is also great for dogs experiencing various skin diseases. Beyond promoting healthy skin, kefir is also rich in B complex vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, biotin, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium. It can help fight allergies and regulate a dogs’ kidneys and liver conditions.
Some of the lactic acid bacteria found in kefir have a proven antibacterial activity and have various antibacterial effects that may be very helpful for any bacterial overgrowth quite common for dogs. This antibacterial effect is due to the presence in kefir of organic acids, hydrogen peroxide, carbon dioxide, and many other bacteriocins.
Kefir contains vast qualities of calcium and increases its absorption by bone cells through the presence of vitamin K2. That plays an important role in calcium metabolization and may reduce the risk of fractures by up to 80%.
Finally, kefir has a proven anti-allergic effect on humans, and there is no reason to believe that it will not have the same effect on dogs, which are also affected by allergies. Provided that your dog’s allergy is not milk-related (pls. see precautions below), kefir will most likely alleviate the severity of its allergic symptoms.
Precautions to take
Along with the many benefits, kefir will offer to your dog’s health, it is a good idea to take some precautions when introducing this powerful probiotic food to your dog’s diet.
Just like us humans, our dogs may also be affected by milk allergies or lactose intolerance. While milk allergies and lactose intolerance are completely different conditions unrelated to each other, they must be addressed with caution.
That is why it is a good idea to introduce kefir to your dog’s diet gradually, starting with smaller quantities.
Start with a trial “testing” dose of about a teaspoon (for small dog breeds) up to a tablespoon (for larger dog breeds) of kefir. If everything goes right and your dog has no adverse side effects, you may safely increase the dosage up to 3-4 tablespoons for large dogs and 2-3 tablespoons for smaller ones.
Initially, some dogs may not be very keen on kefir’s taste, but you have to be persistent. Sooner or later, they will love it and even want more of it. Yet, do not be tempted to give the dog as much kefir as it wants. While moderate doses of kefir will have clearly positive effects on your dog’s health, overdosing may not lead to the results you’re looking for.
Finally, note that research on kefir’s properties and benefits is still a task in progress, even for humans. The research on the effects of kefir on dogs is scarce, and most of the evidence is based on pet owners’ or veterinarians’ testimonials. To stay on the safe side, closely monitor your dog at least during the first days of kefir introduction to its diet and contact your vet in case of any trouble.
Yes, unless your dog has a milk allergy, kefir will be more than beneficial for your dog! Dogs, as mammals closely related to humans, have almost the same reactions to Kefir as we do. In other words, Kefir will have as numerous beneficial effects on dogs as it has on humans. That includes improved gastrointestinal bacterial balance, numerous wound-healing virtues, cholesterol regulation, and a vast range of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects.
Besides being the richest source of probiotics creating the vitally important microbial balance in your pet’s gut, kefir will supply your dog with valuable nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are usually not present in most pellet foods.
- Can my dog eat kefir if it is lactose intolerant? Yes. It is a proven fact that kefir is much better accepted by lactose-intolerant mammals than fresh milk. Some scientific researches suggest that kefir can relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance and even completely cure this condition in the long term. However, note that lactose intolerance is a relatively mild health condition that is not even related to milk allergy! Milk allergy is a serious autoimmune disorder that may lead to violent relations with your dog’s body. So, before administering kefir, make sure your dog is not allergic to milk and milk products.
- Which kefir is best for dogs? As we know, there are two varieties of kefir: water kefir and milk kefir. Milk kefir is actually the most powerful of them and is by far the recommended one. Despite being fully lactose-free, water kefir is a fizzy drink that also may contain considerable amounts of alcohol. Both of these factors may not be well accepted by your dog. So, the recommended type of kefir for your dog is definitely milk kefir.