Apple Cider Vinegar: Is It Beneficial For Your Dog?

By Teresa Garden, DVM

Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apples and apple pectin and is usually an amber color. When purchasing apple cider vinegar please choose raw, unpasteurized vinegar in a glass bottle. This product will contain live bacteria and enzymes that supply health benefits. Glass bottles are preferred over plastic since they do not leach harmful chemicals. An organic form of the vinegar is even better since it has avoided pesticide use on apples of origin.

Actual research on apple cider vinegar’s benefits is minimal at this time. It does have documented human benefits and, often, these may extend to our canine friends. In spite of internet hype, it is important to remember it is not a wonder drug. Nor does it cure anything.

So what health benefits may we expect apple cider vinegar to impart to our dogs? It helps digestion by increasing stomach acid levels. This leads to increased absorption of nutrients. This can minimize GI issues such as flatulence. Apple cider vinegar promotes beneficial bacteria in the dog’s digestive tract. This will allow for a healthier immune system. It many help to relieve constipation in some patients if given the proper amount. Diarrhea may ensue if an overzealous pet owner gives too much of a good thing.
Research shows consumption of apple cider vinegar can lower post-meal glucose levels in humans. It may possibly do the same for dogs. If so, this would make it a good nutraceutical choice for diabetic dogs although not a treatment for diabetes. Diabetic dogs are insulin dependent and have specific dietary needs to help control their diabetes.
Apple cider vinegar may decrease minor inflammation in the bladder. This property could be utilized to combat some cystitis cases. It will not cure urinary tract infections. Infections can be confirmed by your veterinarian and treated by appropriate antibiotics as needed. Apple cider vinegar does have antimicrobial properties. It may interrupt the development of bacterial infections. But once infections are established, seek veterinary attention.

Apple cider vinegar is rich in the mineral potassium. Therefore, it could benefit a dog taking drugs (such as diuretics) which depletes the level of potassium in the body.

To help the above mentioned internal problems apple cider vinegar must be consumed in food or water. Never feed straight apple cider vinegar to your dog. It is very acidic and can cause irritation to the mouth and esophagus. It could lead to vomiting and tooth decay if the dosage is too high. The proper dose of apple cider vinegar for a 50 pound dog would be 1 teaspoon given in food, yogurt, or honey. If adding to your dog’s water bowl, try 1 teaspoon per pint of water. Work up to the dose slowly so your dog can adjust to the taste. Always keep a bowl of plain water available as well in case your dog will not drink from the vinegar bowl. Use non-metal bowls only. If your dog will take a little apple cider vinegar in food or water, it can act as a mild tonic and detoxifier for your pet.

Your dog can benefit from apple cider vinegar’s cleansing and disinfecting properties as well. Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar can be diluted in 1 quart of water and applied with a sprayer or sponge to your dog’s skin and hair coat. This can help remedy dandruff and flaky skin, relieve minor itchy skin, and improve coat quality. It can help to repel fleas and flying insects during the bug season. It will not kill fleas. This mixture could be used as a foot soak to relieve itchy paws. Its antimicrobial action can help to minimize bacterial and yeast infections in the skin.

If you enjoy grooming your dog, this same mixture (2 TB per quart water) can be used as a skin rinse. First, shampoo your dog then rinse with plain water. Second, rinse with the vinegar solution. This will help to further remove soap residue and helps prevent dandruff. The last step is to rinse again with plain water.

Apple cider vinegar diluted 1 tablespoon per cup of water can be used as an ear cleanser. Apply with cotton swab or gauze to clean inside the ear. This mixture can lower the risk of bacterial or yeast infections. Seek veterinary attention if your pet has an ear infection or painful ears. Apple cider vinegar and water can act as a great deodorizer and disinfectant when mixed together in a 50/50 ratio. It can be used to clean dog toys and bedding and to dilute pet stains.

Apple cider vinegar is readily available, affordable and safe. It’s comforting to know a practical home remedy is as close as a short walk to your pantry or kitchen cupboard.

Dr. Teresa Garden is chief veterinarian/owner of Animal Health & Healing, a full-service holistic and conventional veterinary practice in the Maplewood/Richmond Heights area. 314-781-1738.