- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Originally hailing from the Northern Caucausus region of Russia, kefir is now eaten around the world for its calcium and probiotic benefits. Kefir has nutritional benefits for dogs, too whether it’s made with cow’s milk, goat’s milk or non-dairy alternatives like coconut milk and rice milk.
Can My Dog Eat Kefir?
Yes. Dogs can eat kefir – a good source of gut-boosting probiotics, vitamins and minerals – in moderation. Although the fermented drink is often made with cow’s milk, it is low in lactose. That low lactose content means that even dogs that are lactose-intolerant are likely able to stomach kefir. If your dog can’t handle lactose and you’d rather not chance it, kefir produced from goat’s milk, coconut milk, rice milk or oat milk are good, nutritious alternatives.
What Is Kefir?
Kefir is a traditional fermented beverage first produced in Russia’s Northern Cacausus. The sour, tart and slightly fizzy drink is made by combining cow, goat or sheep’s milk with cauliflower-like grains of kefir, a bacterial microcolony made from a combination of Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens, Saccharomyces turicensis and other microorganisms.
During fermentation, the bacteria produces carbon dioxide and breaks lactose in the milk down into lactic acid. As a result, kefir actually contains relatively little lactose compared to milk and yogurt. Kefir is also frequently made with strains of yeast that metabolize lactose.
After 12-24 hours of fermentation, the mixture turns to kefir, a drink that is similar to but thinner and more watery than yogurt. The same process of kefir fermentation also works on plant-based milks made from sources like coconut, oats or rice.
How Can My Dog Benefit By Eating Kefir?
Kefir has similar health benefits to milk or yogurt. But unlike milk or yogurt, which have high lactose contents that some dogs can’t tolerate, even lactose-intolerant pups are likely to be able to comfortably eat kefir in moderation.
Nutritionally, kefir is an excellent source of protein, and of calcium and vitamin K, nutrients that support bone health. It also contains vitamins B12 and B2, which help the body to metabolize fat and protein, and minerals like magnesium and potassium.
But kefir’s real super power lies in its probiotic content. Containing as many as 61 different strains of bacteria and yeast, kefir supports and boosts gut health, and even protects against against infection by preventing harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli from developing. Dogs on antibiotics can benefit from eating kefir because it restores good stomach bacteria that the medication wipes out as it removes harmful strains. Dogs experiencing diarrhea, parasites or stress, and those who are seniros, may also benefit from small amounts of kefir added to their diet.
How Do I Feed My Dog Kefir?
Although kefir is low in lactose, its wealth of probiotics may cause stomach upset in some dogs when first introduced. To avoid nausea or diarrhea, introduce kefir slowly, feeding just a 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon per day. If your dog tolerates this amount well, you can increase the amount to one to two teaspoons per 16 lbs (for example, 1-2 tsp/day for a 16-32 lb dog, 2-3 tsp/day for a 48-64 lb dog, 3-4 tsp/day for a 80-100 lb dog). These amounts can be fed daily as part of a regular diet or during periods of stress or illness during which your dog may need an extra probiotic boost. If you are using kefir to replace healthy bacteria in the gut of a dog that is on antibiotics, feed them one or two teaspoons of kefir a few hours after they take their medication.
When feeding your dog kefir, always choose unsweetened and unflavored varieties. Serve it to them by the teaspoon-full or drizzle it over their daily meal. You can also use kefir as a healthful mix-in for puzzle toys like the KONG or combine it with fruit like melon, blueberries or apples then freeze it in ice cube trays to produce pupsicles.
Can I Make My Own Kefir For My Dog?
Kefir is actually surprisingly easy to make at home – and a whole lot cheaper than purchasing it in a store. All you need is:
- 2 Glass jars
- Coffee filters or cheesecloth and a rubberband
- Milk (dairy or plant-based)
- Plastic or metal strainer
- Kefir grains (available online)
Add one cup of your preferred milk and one tablespoon of kefir grains to a glass jar, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Cover the jar with a breathable cheesecloth or coffee filter, keeping it in place with a rubber band, then let the mixture sit for 24 hours until the liquid has thickened and soured, and ribbons of white and yellow begin to form.
Strain your kefir through a metal or plastic strainer, with a glass jar underneath to catch the liquid. Seal the jar and refrigerate – it should last for approximately three weeks.
Put the kefir grains left over in the strainer into another jar, add a cup of milk, cover, and ferment again. The grains will continue to reproduce and should double in size about every two weeks.
For More Information
We have tons of articles about which foods are safe or dangerous for your dog, including various cereals, fruits, and snacks. You might also be interested in “Can My Dog Eat Yogurt?”