Fermented foods for your pet’s microbiome

From kefir to kombucha, fermented foods help improve your dog or cat’s gut health by balancing the bacteria in his microbiome.

Fermented foods such as borscht, kombucha and kefir have been making the headlines for a while now as an excellent way to improve the health of the gut microbiome in humans. But not everyone knows these foods can do the same for our dogs and cats. Because gut health can profoundly affect overall well-being, this is an important consideration for those who want ways to improve and maintain the wellness of their animal companions.

There’s nothing new about fermentation – it’s a process that dates back thousands of years, when it was used as a way to preserve foods. It wasn’t until the 19th century, thanks to Louis Pasteur, that we began to understand how fermentation actually works and why it’s so beneficial to health. “The process brings about changes in yeast and microorganisms, in the absence of air,” writes Dr. Suzi Beber. “The food therefore retains its enzymes, vitamins and minerals, which are usually destroyed by processing. [Fermented foods] support the gastrointestinal tract by improving the absorption of nutrients…. In addition, the probiotics produced by fermentation help replenish healthy bacteria in both the canine and human gastrointestinal tract.”

William Hoekman, the Nutrition Science Director at Answers Pet Food, concurs. “Fermented foods are those that have been pre-digested by good bacteria (probiotics),” he says. “You create them by introducing good bacteria and then putting that food in an environment conducive to their growth. Once the fermentation is complete, you have a food that pre-digested, filled with good bacteria, and an overall win-win for food safety and health.”

Fermented foods include the above-mentioned kefir, kombucha and borscht as well as sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, probiotic yogurt and more. You can add fermented foods to your dog or cat’s diet by making your own animal-appropriate recipes at home (click here for some examples), or by buying a premium pet food that contains some of these foods in their diet formulas. Answers Pet Foods is one company that offers these choices. “We make a full line of raw fermented pet foods,” says William. “It includes dog and cat food, fermented raw dairy, fermented bone broths, and a line of raw cheese bites.

“With fermented foods, you get probiotics that are already living and thriving in a food environment before they even get into your pet’s gut,” he adds. “The goal in nutrition is to consume foods that inherently contain probiotics, instead of adding probiotics. Fermented foods do that.”

Our microbiomes, and those of our dogs and cats, can get out of balance easily these days, thanks to poor quality and/or overly-processed foods, antibiotic use, stress and many other factors. By giving your animal companion fermented foods on a regular basis, you’ll help keep his microbiome healthy and his GI system working the way it should.