Can My Dog Eat Kefir?

Should you dog drink kefir? ¹

Experts say that 1 to 3 cups of “kefir” is a very good addition to your diet.

If you haven’t tried this drink yet, it’s about time you try it.

Or maybe you already had it. It could even be one of your favorites.

It’s delicious plus it is very healthy, no wonder why you can find it in most supermarkets or grocery stores.

Lots of people are raving about it.

But wait a minute…Is this something that you can safely share with your furry baby? Is this food item healthy for dogs as well? Or should you keep it away from your puppy?

As a dog owner, you should be responsible enough to find out whether or not what you are feeding your pet with is safe.

So, before you attempt to give your pup some kefir, you should read this article first.

What is kefir?

It is believed that kefir, which is a fermented milk drink, has been around for centuries and has originated from the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe. Nowadays, it is a staple in many cultures worldwide due to its numerous health benefits. It is an excellent source of nutrients, a powerful probiotic, and a great protection against cancer and other diseases.

Kefir is almost similar to a yogurt except that the latter is more potent, and it has a thinner consistency. Aside from kefir grains, the milk of cows, sheep, and goats are also used to prepare this drink. It has a tart, sour taste and a little fizz due to fermentation. The longer it is fermented, the stronger the flavor.

Aside from the health benefits that we have mentioned above, kefir may also help improve digestion, support weight loss, reduce inflammation, and promote bone health.

What are the main types of kefir?

Kefir has two main types:

Milk Kefir

This probiotic beverage is what you can usually find in grocery stores. Milk kefir grains are used as the starter culture. Other ingredients may include coconut milk, goat milk, and cow milk.

One thing that you should know is that milk kefir is not that complicated to make. You can watch videos online, follow the instructions, and you will end up with a delicious probiotic-rich beverage for you and your family members.

Water Kefir

 This type, on the other hand, is dairy-free although it also requires a starter culture (kefir starter culture or water kefir grains). Main ingredients include water or fruit juice. You can also utilize coconut water.

Both of these types of kefir come with a plethora of benefits.

What are the benefits of kefir for dogs?

Just as it is for humans, kefir offers numerous health benefits to dogs. Research has shown that adding it to your pup’s diet can help treat digestive issues, improve the immune system as well as manage eczema. Thanks to the strains of kefir (about 61 strains!) found in this food item.

If your dog is suffering from digestive issues and it has taken antibiotics, you can give it kefir to help balance the number of good bacteria in your furry baby’s gut. Experts also say that probiotics are really useful in increasing immunity markers . This is especially important if you have an older dog.

Aside from being an excellent immunity booster, the probiotics found in kefir can help prevent the development of skin conditions in dogs as well.

What are the disadvantages of kefir?

Just like any substance that contains ingredients that can cause changes in a living organism, you can expect the probiotics found in kefir to have some side effects too. Excess gas, constipation, or diarrhea if you are not already treating your dog for it may occur. Also in some cases, the symptoms may seem to worsen a little bit before you can expect the gastrointestinal tract to clear up. This is because the gut needs time to adjust to the sudden influx of good bacteria.

Another disadvantage of probiotics is they can cause inflammation or systemic infection too, although this is rare. It only happens when there is an overgrowth of lactobacillus and the bacteria spill over into a dog’s bloodstream.

Additionally, a dog may also have an allergic reaction to the live bacteria found in kefir. With this, you should watch out for difficulty of breathing, itching, as well as swelling of the lips and tongue of your puppy.

Just to be on the safe side, be sure to always invest in products containing high-quality probiotics if you plan on giving them to your furry baby.

How much kefir should you feed your dog?

If you are giving kefir to your dog for the very first time, be sure to do it slowly. Start with about ¼ or ½ teaspoon. Otherwise, your dog may experience nausea or vomiting as well as diarrhea. After quite some time and you notice that your puppy is responding well to the amount of kefir that you are giving, then you can gradually increase the amount according to your dog’s weight (1 to 2 teaspoons for every 16 pounds).

However, if your dog is on antibiotics and you are trying to replace healthy bacteria in its gut, 1 to 2 teaspoons of kefir can be given a few hours after you have given medication. It is best to consult with a veterinarian though regarding this.

Can a dog overdose on kefir?

Although milk kefir is low in lactose, adverse reactions may still occur in some dogs. This is why it is extremely important that you don’t feed your puppy too much of this fermented drink. A dog may overdose on kefir and could experience diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, and other digestive issues. Take note that some brands, especially those with fruits, also contain added sugar or artificial sweetener like xylitol, which is toxic in dogs.

Best selling brands of kefir

Lifeway

Lifeway offers a variety of flavors to choose from – raspberry, blueberry, cherry, etc. You may also opt for the plain one if you want something versatile and that you can easily mix with other food items.

Wallaby Organic

Lots of consumers find this brand not too tart since it is milk based. The plain kind is a perfect addition to fruits, shakes, cereals, and other recipes. It is also a good source of protein and it is lower in sugar compared to other brands.

Green Valley Creamery

If you want a lactose-free, organic, low-fat plain kefir, then the Green Valley Creamery brand would be your best bet. With this brand, the lactase enzyme is added to organic milk and cream before it is cultured. This ensures that lactose-intolerant consumers can still enjoy the calcium and protein content. Consumers find it with a luxurious taste with no fillers.

Can kefir help dogs with allergies or diarrhea?

Since kefir is an excellent probiotic, it can definitely help dogs with allergies or diarrhea. A healthy gut is quite important in maintaining good immunity, so if your puppy is suffering from the said health issues, you should find ways to replenish good gut flora in the digestive system. With good gut health, the intestines should be able to work well, especially in absorbing beneficial nutrients and removing toxins from the body.

For dogs with allergies or diarrhea, plain kefir without artificial sweeteners is highly recommended.

Other ways to feed your dog probiotics

Aside from giving kefir, there are other ways to feed your dog with probiotics. Take a look at the following:

Dog Foods

You can find dog foods out there that contain probiotics, and this could be the easiest way for you to introduce good bacteria to your pet. Keep in mind though that these bacteria are sensitive to several things like temperature, moisture, as well as air so it is essential that you look for high-quality dog food with added probiotics. Know how they were made as well.

Treats

Another easy way to add a dose of probiotics to the daily diet of your dog is by giving treats with added probiotics. Just be careful though because there are treats that don’t really contain live probiotics. Some of them may even have additives and extra preservatives that may cause harm to your dog.

Powders

Although powdered probiotics may be harder to give to dogs, these products are beneficial especially if you opt for live probiotics in individual pockets because exposure to air and moisture can be controlled.

Pills

Just like powders, probiotics in the form of pills may be difficult to give to dogs because they may just spit it out. But there are tricks to give them to your pet. You can hide them in canned food or treats.

Closing thoughts

Kefir is beneficial not only to humans but also to canines because of the probiotics that it contains. It can help nourish good gut bacteria. But in order for your dog to enjoy all the benefits, be sure to look for a high-quality brand of kefir. You can also supplement this product by giving dog foods, treats, pills, or powders with added probiotics. If your dog is suffering from allergies or diarrhea, you should opt for plain kefir. Remember that kefir has disadvantages too, so be sure to gradually introduce it to your dog’s diet.

Photo credits

¹ Photo by Mike Mozart on Flickr