By Vanessa Voltolina
Over the past few years, apple cider vinegar has been touted for its health benefits in people —featured in everything from morning tonics to elaborate salad dressings — and quickly positioning itself among the superfoods. In pets, it has been noted for its flea-fighting ability (the smell and taste provides an unpleasant environment that will make fleas want to move on). But is it safe for them to eat? The short answer is yes, but it comes with some caveats.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for Pets?
A teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar, diluted, for a normal-sized canine (less for a cat) is unlikely to have a negative effect on a healthy pet, said Dr. Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN and assistant professor of nutrition at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. However, more than this amount, or providing it undiluted, could cause issues, particularly in pets who aren’t one hundred percent healthy.
For cats or canines with kidney disease (who don’t process acid well as a result of the disease) it’s likely not a good idea, as the acidity of the apple cider vinegar could be harmful, Heinze said. In fact, in a situation such as this, the food recommended to these pets is more alkaline in nature, and is an important conversation to have with a trusted veterinarian to determine what your animal should and shouldn’t have as a result of this diagnosis.
Despite all of the health-centered hype, said Heinze, there really isn’t a lot of data on the health claims of apple cider vinegar, which can make it difficult for pet owners to confidently make an informed decision on whether or not to give it to their pets. Plus, “so much of the information that is out there isn’t put into perspective,” she said.
You may have heard declarations that apple cider vinegar contains loads of potassium — an essential nutrient that can assist with muscle and heart contraction — or even that it contains muscle-building amino acids. As a concerned pet parent, you want your pet to reap the healthy benefits! The claim that apple cider vinegar has amino acids (which can assist in muscle recovery after a long walk or jog with Fido) is unfortunately incorrect, as the content is zero. Even if there are trace amounts, said Heinze, they don’t provide enough of the nutrient significant for recovery.
What about the high potassium content? Although there is potassium in apple cider vinegar (according to the USDA Food Products Database, there are 15mg of potassium in one tablespoon), you or your pet would have to drink ten bottles of apple cider vinegar to see any kind of health impact, which would likely cause gastric ulcers due to the acid, Heinze said.
Adding Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Pet’s Diet
“I have a number of clients who attempt to add apple cider vinegar to their pets’ diets, but their pet won’t eat it,” Heinze said. Watch closely for your pet’s cues. If your pet dislikes foods or treats containing apple cider vinegar, or seems to have an upset stomach, simply don’t feed it to them, she advised. Also remember that apple cider vinegar should never be consumed undiluted, she added. While we really don’t know how appropriate the use of apple cider vinegar is in our pets’ products, a small amount mixed into homemade dog treats, a large bowl of water or a meal (one teaspoon or less), should be safe for those who feel the need to use it, she said.
However, keep in mind the fact that the vinegar is an acid that can burn the delicate mucus membranes of the digestive tract. While we can eat it as part of our favorite salad dressings, “I don’t believe there is anything to support it [for improved health in pets],” said Heinze. “It can often have a laxative effect, or cause stomach upset, so I usually discourage the use of apple cider vinegar.”
If you have questions about your dog’s diet, be sure to talk to your veterinarian, who can help you determine the best options for your dog.
Image: Tatiana Dyuvbanova via Shutterstock