I’ve mentioned sauerkraut or fermented vegetables to a few people recently and either been asked if I am completely bonkers or I have seen a light bulb moment. Fermented vegetables have been used for years as a probiotic but have fallen out of favour to trendy new products.
Some dogs, like humans, suffer from lactose intolerance from dairy products. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, flatulence, nausea and stomach cramps. Lactose is a sugar found in milk that must be broken apart by an enzyme – lactase – before it can be digested properly. Dogs with enough lactase in their bodies may experience minimal to no signs of lactose intolerance while others exhibit more severe symptoms.Milk, cheese and yogurt can affect dogs in different ways. For example, dogs lacking the lactase enzyme may become constipated if they eat cheese. Alternatively, milk and yogurt are more likely to induce loose stools in lactose intolerant dogs.There are all sorts of prebiotic and probiotic products being marketed for pets, but what if you could feed a whole food that contained natural probiotics, instead of using little capsules and packages? That’s where fermented foods come into play – these amazing foods have many benefits!This is where chemistry meets nutrition. Fermentation occurs as a result of oxidation causing a “release of energy to produce organic acids, gases, and/or alcohol,” or as Stone puts it, the food is already slightly pre-digested and broken down before your dog eats it. This means less work for your dog to digest his food.There are two main types of fermentation: alcohol fermentation, yielding wine and beer, and lactic acid fermentation, which makes dairy and vegetable products, this is not suitable for animals.These are cultured by using bacteria, yeast, moulds, or a combination of the three. These are beneficial to the body and ferment, usually with lactose, which is the sugar that is found in milk. These foods are alive and actively fermenting when they’re eaten – not the freeze dried, inactive versions found in supplements.
Fresh sauerkraut is a great source of probiotics, and provides more variety to your dog’s good bacteria menu.Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut can produce up to 10 trillion CFUs (colony-forming units), unlike probiotic supplements for humans that produce up to 10 billion CFUs.
Not only are fermented vegetables a great source of probiotics for your dog, they are also known:To get rid of toxins in the bodyTo help protect against cancerTo be high in vitamins A, C, B, ETo be high in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, folate, iron, etc.Sauerkraut can be added to your dog’s diet gradually until you reach 1 to 3 teaspoons for every 20 pounds of body weight daily.
Make your own
1.5kg very firm, pale green or white cabbage (any leathery outer leaves removed), cored, 2 cucumbers skinned and shredded.3 tbsp. coarse crystal sea salt (or 6 tbsp flaky sea salt)1 tsp caraway seeds
Shred the cabbage/cucumber thinly or via a food processor. Layer the cabbage and the salt in the tub, bowl or a jar. Massage the salt into the cabbage/cucumber for 5 mins, wait 5 mins, then repeat. You should end up with a much-reduced volume of cabbage sitting in its own brine. Mix in the caraway seeds.Cover the surface of the cabbage entirely with a sheet of cling film, then press out all the air bubbles from below. Weigh the cabbage down using a couple of heavy plates, or other weights that fit your bowl, and cover as much of the cabbage as possible. The level of the brine will rise to cover the cabbage a little. Cover the tub with its lid (or more cling film) and leave in a dark place at a cool room temperature (about 18-20C) for at least 5 days. It will be ready to eat after 5 days, but for maximum flavour leave the cabbage to ferment for anywhere between 2-6 weeks (or until the bubbling subsides).Check the cabbage every day or so, releasing any gases that have built up as it ferments, and give the cabbage a stir to release the bubbles. If any scum forms, remove it, rinse the weights in boiling water and replace the cling film. You should see bubbles appearing within the cabbage, and possibly some foam on the top of the brine. It’s important to keep it at an even, cool room temperature – too cool and the ferment will take longer than you’d like, too warm and the sauerkraut may become mouldy or ferment too quickly,The cabbage/cucumber will become increasingly sour the longer it’s fermented, so taste it now and again.