From CBD oil to BEG diets, dog owners around the world are increasingly humanizing their pet pooches’ diets. This is understandable—you would want your furball to have delicious, nutritious food just as you do, and kombucha is the latest in a long list.
However, there is a fine line between the health benefits and health risks when you serve up typical “human” foods to your dog. Is feeding your dog kombucha a good idea? Read on to know.
A fizzy, fermented drink, the first kombucha was brewed in China almost 2,000 years ago, from where it made its way into Japanese and Russian societies. It was only in the 20th century that Europe discovered kombucha, and only in the last three decades that the USA commercially discovered kombucha.
Kombucha is brewed using yeast, black or green tea, and sugar. This mixture is set aside for a week or longer, during which time acids and bacteria form in the brew, causing fermentation. This mix of acids and bacteria that causes fermentation is referred to as SCOBY, short for the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
SCOBY can be set aside to easily create future batches of kombucha, similar to the mother in vinegar.
It should be noted that as a fermented drink, kombucha contains some amount of alcohol—0.5 to 1.5% in raw kombucha and up to 5% in hard kombucha.
Though much of these are claims unsupported by science, kombucha’s rich probiotic content has been proven to improve gut health by controlling intestinal infections, balancing gut flora, and improving digestion.
Another proven point in favor of kombucha is its natural antimicrobial properties, thanks to its high acetic acid content. This makes kombucha extremely effective at fighting bacterial infections internally and externally.
It is also believed that kombucha can help keep away diabetes and help in better management of blood sugar levels.
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Everyone’s waxing poetic about this miraculous probiotic liquid in the human world, is kombucha just as beneficial to dogs? More importantly, is it safe for dogs?
Unfortunately, there are insufficient studies to support just how safe or toxic kombucha itself is to dogs. The questions of whether or not you should feed your dog kombucha and whether it is safe are still at the center of a raging debate concerning safe “human” foods for dogs among scientists and veterinarians.
One side argues that it is only logical that dogs will reap the same benefits from kombucha that their hoomans do, while the other side counters with the fact that the different metabolic processes in both species could present higher kombucha-related health risks to canines.
However, despite all the hullabaloo in the scientific community, many pet parents feed their dogs kombucha and swear by how much the drink has improved their furballs’ lives.
As mentioned before, kombucha is rich in probiotics and antioxidants, as well as certain vitamins and trace minerals that can lead to a healthier dog.
As a species in which stomach and intestinal issues are extremely common, dogs can benefit from the probiotic goodness of kombucha, compounded by its antimicrobial nature and the ability to lower blood sugar.
Some pet parents also use kombucha to counter and soothe itchy skin, easily get rid of the “wet dog” smell and any dirt, and kill fleas, by spraying it directly onto their pet’s skin and using it as a scrub (many claim that kombucha also softens their pet’s fur, just as it does for humans).
That said, kombucha is not 100% safe for dogs, as some of its ingredients are unsafe and potentially toxic to dogs.
Some of the risks that dogs face from kombucha:
- Dogs are extremely sensitive to caffeine and can be harmed by even minute amounts. As a fermented drink made from tea leaves (which naturally contain caffeine), there is bound to be some amount of caffeine content in kombucha. This caffeine content can lead to indigestion in dogs.
- The caffeine content can also cause an increase in the heart rate, blood pressure, tremors, and even seizures, in extreme cases.
- Prolonged feeding of kombucha can cause caffeine toxicity in dogs with a slew of ensuing health problems. Fed long enough, the caffeine content could cause an overdose in your pet.
- Though the probiotics in kombucha help gut microflora flourish in your dog’s gastrointestinal system, kombucha can easily cause an imbalance in the bacteria and lead to diarrhea, due to the large and thriving live bacterial population that it naturally contains.
- As mentioned earlier, kombucha contains alcohol, which dogs are extremely sensitive to. Their bodies cannot metabolize the liquid, leading them to suffer from respiratory depression, fatally low body temperatures, and lethargy.
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If you’d still like to go ahead and feed kombucha to your pooch, there are a few safe ways to go about it.
For starters, having a vet consultation. Check with your vet if it’s safe to feed your pet kombucha, and if yes, how much and how often.
Once you have the go-ahead, you can either directly feed your pet the kombucha or add it to their food (bear in mind, though, that left to sit long enough, the kombucha will turn dry food into soggy clumps).
You could also pour it into your dog’s water bowl. Since dogs are quite sensitive to smell, all the kombucha at once may be too overwhelming; start slowly with small amounts and work your way up as your dog gets more comfortable.
You could also feed your dog SCOBY snacks! Dehydrated SCOBY is a great idea (you can DIY or get it from the pet store), as is a SCOBY chew toy. Some dogs also enjoy raw SCOBY, while baked SCOBY treats are generally failsafe (because they’re baked!).
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While it may seem like you’re giving your pet the best by feeding it foods that are healthy for humans, that may not always be the case. Even if there are some benefits that the pet can derive from these foods, the outcome can be very touch-and-go if the quantity fed is not carefully monitored.
Therefore, always consult your vet first (it bears repeating!) and only feed your dog the recommended amount. If your dog doesn’t seem to take to kombucha despite repeated attempts, simply let it be and don’t try to force-feed him or her.
Dogs, just like humans, have their preferences, so while you may literally and metaphorically thirst after the goodness of kombucha, it doesn’t mean that your furball also has to.