A family barbecue is a great bonding experience for everyone and an easy way to make an occasion out of having dinner every night. There’s the outdoor setting, the leisure time while things are cooking, the thrill of hot meat fresh off the grill. Everyone grabs their favorite thing, slaps it on a bun, reaches for the condiments; it’s a scene we’ve all had at least once.
That delicious smell of meat on the grill is tantalizing enough to the human nose, but if your family has a dog, chances are it’s been eyeing that stuff in none too subtle a manner since you got it in the door. Unless you’ve specifically locked it away, you should start looking around – the dog is probably slinking closer to the table, wondering what it can get away with grabbing while your back is turned.
The problem here, apart from the fact that a dog trying to grab something off the table is clearly not as well behaved as you might think it is, is that not everything on the table is meat, or otherwise fit for a dog’s consumption. Condiments, salad, and desserts are all likely candidates to cause an adverse effect on your dog. Depending on what you’ve selected to use in which dishes, your dog can do serious harm to itself by eating your food.
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Sauerkraut, for instance, is a popular enough condiment for humans, a variant on coleslaw and pickles that involves preserving finely sliced cabbage in a briny solution and waiting for them to ferment. It sees widespread use all over the world and is enjoyed as a component in salads, a layer in a sandwich, and on top of all manner of barbecued meats.
You may even have a bowl or jar of sauerkraut out at your own barbecue, ready to slap onto your next burger or dog the moment it cools down from the grill. What should you do if you turn around to see your dog making off with a mouthful of it?
The Good News
First of all, don’t start worrying too quickly – while there are plenty of human foods that can and have proven toxic to dogs, sauerkraut is not one of them. It may seem a little unusual for anyone to want to eat straight, but no harm will come of your dog scarfing down some sauerkraut, whether it’s a home recipe or from a jar on a store shelf.
Additionally, and perhaps even more surprising to newer pet owners, is that sauerkraut can actually convey numerous benefits to your dog by providing supplementary vitamins that their ordinary, meat-based diets tend to lack. To a certain degree, sauerkraut is the same thing to dogs as it is to people – a condiment to add a little something extra to a meal, even if it’s never really your favorite choice for the main dish.
A considerable portion of those health benefits stem from the method of preparation; as mentioned earlier, sauerkraut is created by way of fermentation, which causes large quantities of probiotic bacteria to form within the jar and be absorbed into the cabbage. Probiotic bacteria are the same kind that helps the gastrointestinal tract function, and having more of them will speed along digestion and reduce congestion, flatulence, and bloating.
Improved stomach action also means a lower risk of ulcers and other syndromes of irritated bowels, any of which are likely to leave your dog in extreme discomfort and make your pet more of a chore on a daily basis. Although not to be seen as a medical treatment for these conditions, sauerkraut can be a solid preventative lifestyle choice to keep them from occurring at all.
Another known benefit of these probiotic bacteria is their capacity to reduce blood cholesterol in both dogs and humans alike. Blood cholesterol can line the blood vessels and cause them to narrow until they aren’t carrying enough blood for the organs to function anymore; especially in elderly dogs, steps to reduce blood cholesterol can mean significant differences in lifespan.
Between the fermenting process and the natural properties of cabbage, your dog can meet its regular vitamin needs with a relatively small serving of sauerkraut. One excellent example is Vitamin A, the compound that is most commonly associated with preserving eyesight and preventing optical diseases; having sauerkraut can keep your dog from developing runny or flaky eye sockets and prevent vision loss as they age.
Vitamin C is used by the body to manufacture and repair many components of the immune system, including white blood cells and platelets for scabbing over cuts. Your dog can get all the vitamin C it needs for nearly a full week out of as little as a single cup of sauerkraut.
The same chemicals that give your sauerkraut its sharp, tangy smell and taste have other properties as well; while they do different things in humans, one noted affect of these vitamins and minerals in dogs is to improve hair regrowth and strength and suppress skin conditions. A regular portion of sauerkraut can help give your pet a lustrous oat and remove itching, flaking, or excessive fluid discharge from healing cuts.
One last interesting benefit of sauerkraut is that its calcium content is high enough to make it an aid to bone growth and the ability to pertain bone marrow as they age. It also contains a lesser-known compound called Vitamin K2, which has properties that help bones remineralize and strengthen the tissue connecting them to sinews and tendons throughout the dog’s body.
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Are Fermented Foods Good for Dogs?
Fermented food has a high salt content which isn’t ideal for us or our dogs, but that isn’t to say that you should refrain from feeding your dog fermented food altogether. Fermented foods contain probiotic bacteria that are beneficial to digestion and gut health. This makes them great for your dog as a whole.
How do You Make Sauerkraut for Dogs?
If you are making sauerkraut at home, you should refrain from adding lots of salt and sugar to the mix. Keep the ingredients plain and simple so that your pup isn’t overloaded with flavor. Keeping the sugar content down will also help your dog maintain healthy body weight and dental health.
Although sauerkraut has plenty of benefits to your dog, it is not a ‘superfood’ with no possible negative effects; there are things about sauerkraut that mandate a certain amount of caution with how much goes into your dog’s bowl. Be particularly cautious of store-bought recipes in particular, as the mass-production process often results in removing much of the beneficial probiotics that contain most of the positive side effects for your dog.
Another thing to keep an eye on in any pickled food is the sodium content; most pickling solutions include something to give the resulting brine flavor, with the most common selections being vinegar or saltwater. Either one can upset your dog’s internal chemistry and lead to trouble with digestion and the urinary tract; if you know your dog to have a preexisting condition in either one, consult a trusted veterinarian before adding sauerkraut to your dog’s diet.
The last thing to keep in mind is the need for moderation; with all its benefits, it is easy to forget that your dog’s body needs more than just sauerkraut to function properly. As with our own meals, serving it as a topping is fine, but one shouldn’t use it as the main course.
Your dog should be fine with eating sauerkraut, even if it really wasn’t supposed to be swiping things from the table; in fact, it might be a good idea to mix some into the dog’s bowl every so often giving your pooch the benefit of the many vitamins and minerals it contains. As with any supplementary food, though, you’ll need to be careful not to go overboard. Do some research or consult with your vet to make sure that you are giving your dog the right quantities for their diet and lifestyle.
A good way to ensure that it really is helping the dog’s health is to stick to a homemade or organic recipe, as these will sidestep many of the problems found in modern mass production. Recipes are freely available online, and most require little special equipment – give it a try!
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