Many raw feeders hate the idea of vegetables for dogs. They say dogs are strictly carnivores and need a prey model diet of meat and organs. Dogs can definitely do well on an all-carnivore diet. But they could be missing out on some important nutrients.
I believe an appropriate diet for dogs has plentiful animal products …
These should ideally be from pasture-raised animals. But I also give my dogs a small amount of pulverized vegetables. That’s because vegetables contain valuable phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients In Vegetables
Phytonutrients are one of the most important nutrients you can give your dog. They’re beneficial to health and help prevent various diseases.
Research has long shown that diets rich in fruits and vegetables protects people from diseases like:
- Heart disease
Nowadays we know that it’s the phytonutrients that deliver those health benefits. That’s because they can…
- Kill cancer cells
- Reduce inflammation
- Promote gut health
- Support a healthy liver
And phytonutrients are only found in vegetables. So if your dog eats a meat-only raw diet, he’s missing out on these benefits.
The Power Of Fermented Vegetables
Do you want to make vegetables even more healthy? Ferment them!
Many cultures around the world use fermented foods. They can help preserve food; and they support health in several ways.
Here are some health benefits of fermentation:
- It makes minerals, vitamins and enzymes in vegetables more digestible.
- It increases the number of probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut.
- It boosts immune function. More than 80% of your dog’s immune system is in his gut. So healthy gut bacteria help him fight disease.
- It lowers harmful lectins in foods.
- Some food and herbs … (like carrots, beets, garlic, dandelion, and chicory) are good sources of prebiotics. Prebiotics feed probiotics and help them work better. It may help prevent diabetes by improving glucose tolerance.
- Can boost natural melatonin … helping regulate your dog’s sleep-wake cycle, It may have anti-anxiety effects on your dog.
So … let’s talk about how to ferment veggies for your dog.
How To Ferment Vegetables For Your Dog
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Garden fresh vegetables and herbs
- Sea salt
- Whey (optional)
- Food processor and sharp knives
- Jars, lids and bands or a fermenting crock
Ingredient quality is important. Keep these things in mind as you shop.
You’ll want to choose fresh, organically grown produce.
Avoid iodized salt. The iodine may inhibit beneficial bacteria. Also, watch out for anti-caking agents. Two good choices are Himalayan salt and Celtic sea salt. Both are high in minerals and work well for fermenting vegetables. Salt hinders the growth of undesirable microorganisms, making way for favored Lactobacilli bacteria. Lactobacillus is one of the strains that gets the fermenting kickstarted.
Whey is the protein-rich liquid part left … after clabbering milk and straining the curd. It also contains vitamins, minerals, and lactose. So if your dog’s sensitive to dairy, you might want to skip the whey.
Here’s the fermenting process:
- Using a food processor, mince the vegetables almost to a puree and mix together.
- For 1 quart of fermented food, add 1-2 Tbsp of salt, and if using, ¼ cup whey.
- Blend thoroughly into the vegetables.
- If the mixture seems dry after blending the salt in, you may need to mix in a small amount of spring or filtered water.
- The liquid should cover the vegetables once they’re in the jar.
- If using jars, don’t fill to the top.
- The fermenting process makes the liquid bubble up. So you could have an explosion in your kitchen! Let jars sit at room temperature for 2-3 days.
- Once each day, unscrew the jar to let pressure escape.
The fermentation process is faster if you shred the vegetables finely.
But if you’re using a crock for a larger volume, keep the pieces larger and shred them after they’re fermented. This can take 10-14 days. Follow a fermenting recipe for crock-size batches.
Once fermenting has finished, move jars to the refrigerator. And, remember to add a label with ingredients.
How To Feed Fermented Vegetables To Dogs
I choose one meal to add fermented veggies. My dogs eat breakfast and just have a raw meaty bone for supper.
So I mix the minced, fermented vegetables into their breakfast bowl … along with their pureed organs and chunked muscle meat. This is a good time to add in eggs, raw milk or cultured dairy, phytoplankton, and any of your dog’s supplements.
How Much To Feed
Vegetables are a nutritious addition to your dog’s diet. But they should make up a small percentage overall. Aim for 5-8%, and no more than 10%. Start slowly if your dog isn’t accustomed to fermented vegetables .. giving about 1 tablespoon per 20 lbs of weight.
You don’t have to feed every vegetable under the sun at once! Try to feed what’s in season. I’ll get to more specific vegetables and how to get your hands on them in a bit.
Keep It Seasonal
I usually choose a few vegetables to pulverize at once. I actually have a couple gallons of celery and beets that are already fermented in my fridge.
So in the fall I add those along with garlic and carrots.
Pretty soon I’ll switch to winter foods like pumpkins or winter squash when I run low on carrots and beets.
In the spring, I’ll pick some fresh dandelion leaves and see if we left some parsnips behind in the garden. Sometimes I might have to buy some vegetables from the co-op.
When summer kicks into gear, I’ll add broccoli, summer squash, and beans to the fermenting jar.
Do NOT peel your root crops! You don’t even need to scrub them scrupulously clean for your dog’s fermented mix. There is an abundance of nutrition in that outer layer.
Some Vegetables and Herbs To Consider
Celery – Helpful for kidney health, high in vitamin C for immune system
Carrots – high in vitamin A, support eye health. Long rootlets feed deep into healthy soil for high mineral count.
Broccoli – Many nutrients that may fight cancer, inflammation, allergies and toxins
Squash, pumpkins – Great fiber source for digestion and parasite prevention. Powerful antioxidants, high water content.
Garlic – Excellent natural antibiotic and parasite prevention. 1 clove per 30 lbs of body weight per day
Caution: Avoid parsley for pregnant dams as it may cause uterine contractions.
Grow A Garden or Support Your Local Farmer!
Perhaps you have a garden already. If not, consider starting one if you have the space.
Or … you may not have an option (or the desire!) to grow a garden. In that case, try looking for farmers markets, food co-ops or organic directories. Just as you’d ask questions of a livestock farmer, ask how the food was raised.
The most nutritious vegetables and herbs are grown in healthy soil … teeming with microscopic life. When soil is nurtured it builds humus, which is full of excellent fungi and bacteria. Minerals must be abundant for crops to grow and develop. Soil-building is a complex and fascinating subject in itself!
Avoiding chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and soil compaction and erosion is crucial. Ask your farmer if she follows crop rotation practices. This helps negate pest problems… and ensures crops won’t deplete the nutrients in that part of the garden.
No matter which vegetables you choose for your dog (and yourself) … I hope you’ll give fermenting a try for the extra boost of nutrition and enhanced digestion.
Fermented foods nurture the balance of beneficial bacteria in your dog’s digestive system. On the flip side, an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut causes dysbiosis. That bring symptoms of gas, diarrhea, constipation and even chronic disease. And you don’t want that for your dog!
So try some fermented veggies and see how they can improve your dog’s health.
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Hilimire M, DeVylder J, Forestell C. Fermented foods, neuroticism, and social anxiety: An interaction model. Psychiatry Research, 2015 August 2015;228(2):203-8.