If you have ever eaten at a Korean restaurant before, you would have seen or tasted kimchi as well. Whether you like the taste or not, is a different matter.
There is no denying that kimchi is known to have many health benefits.
But is it safe for your dog to eat kimchi?
The original and most common way of making kimchi isn’t healthy for dogs. There are ingredients used such as onion and garlic that are toxic to dogs. The recipe has to be adjusted to be dog-friendly before feeding kimchi to your dog.
In this article, we will be taking a closer look at what kimchi is, why it isn’t suitable for your dog and what are the better alternatives.
What Exactly Is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish that can be eaten as a side or used as an ingredient in other Korean dishes.
It is the national dish of Korea and has been around since the 7th century.
Kimchi is primarily made from Napa cabbage and other vegetables such as spring onion, carrots and cucumber can be added as well.
How Is Kimchi Made?
Kimchi has a rather unique taste and smell from the ingredients used to make it and the fermentation process.
The vegetables are salted to remove the moisture before getting marinated.
The spice marinade consists of ingredients such as onion, garlic, sugar and ginger.
Once the greens are totally covered in the marinade, they are left to ferment in glass jars or pots for weeks or months.
Health Benefits Of Kimchi
The fermentation process of kimchi creates beneficial bacteria or probiotics that can help to improve gut health and boost the immune system.
Kimchi is also rich in vitamins and minerals such as:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
Kimchi is also said to have antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-obesity and anti-aging properties.
Does This Mean Kimchi Is Healthy For Dogs?
Before you go raiding your local Korean mart for all the kimchi they have, I wouldn’t give your dog any kimchi just yet.
There are a couple of legit reasons why kimchi isn’t suitable for dogs.
Too High In Salt
Fermented vegetables contain a high amount of sodium.
This is because salt is generously applied to the vegetables to remove excess moisture, enhance the taste and act as a preservative.
100mg of kimchi contains a staggering 830mg of salt!
That is a lot of salt even for humans.
Koreans are reported to have one of the highest sodium levels in the world, averaging more than 5000mg.
That doesn’t come as a surprise given that kimchi is eaten so regularly.
In general, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends a minimum of 0.3% sodium on a dry matter basis.
This refers to the weight of the pet food after all the moisture or water content has been removed.
Other factors also include your dogs, age, breed and existing health condition.
Truth be told, it can be difficult to calculate the exact amount of salt that your dog needs daily.
But if you are feeding your pooch a good quality diet, it is already getting all the sodium it needs.
Why Too Much Salt Is Dangerous?
Too much salt in your dog’s diet can lead to salt poisoning.
The symptoms include:
- Excessive thirst and urination
If your dog doesn’t get proper medical treatment promptly, it can become life-threatening.
Salt isn’t the only ingredient that makes kimchi toxic to dogs.
Commonly used ingredients are garlic and onions which are very toxic to all dogs. This includes sauces like Teriyaki sauce which is bad for dogs.
Garlic and onions contain chemical compounds called N-propyl disulfide and thiosulfate.
These compounds will attack the dog’s red blood cells and cause them to break down.
This hampers the blood’s ability to transport oxygen to the rest of the dog’s body.
When this happens, the dog can suffer from anemia which can cause weakness and difficulty in breathing.
A transfusion is usually needed to treat the dog with this condition.
Even cooked onion and onion powder are very toxic to dogs and should not be consumed
Kimchi also contains chili power which can irritate your dog’s oral cavity and digestive tract.
Although kimchi isn’t considered spicy food, a dog’s sense of smell is very sensitive.
The chili powder can irritate the dog’s respiratory system causing coughing, sneezing and breathing issues.
Eating spicy food can irritate your dog’s diaphragm and give it doggie hiccups.
If the chili powder is spicy enough, it can disrupt the dog’s gastrointestinal tract which leads to a stomach upset.
Are Fermented Foods Healthy For Dogs?
Although kimchi might not be the most ideal type of fermented food for your dog, that doesn’t mean we should write off fermented food just yet.
The reason why fermented food can be beneficial for dogs is due to the presence of probiotics.
Probiotics are live bacteria of yeast that can provide your dog with various health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts.
These microorganisms are often found in fermented foods and dietary supplements.
There have been a number of studies done about the benefits of kimchi or probiotics in animals.
A study conducted on mice showed that kimchi had a positive effect on obese mice. These mice were found to have lower body weight and fat mass compared to the control group1.
Another study conducted on mice with colitis or inflammation of the large colon showed lesser inflammation and colon tissue damage when fed with kimchi2.
These studies demonstrate the potential health benefits that probiotics can have on animals. But there needs to be further research on pets such as dogs and cats.
Can Dogs Eat Fermented Foods?
Dogs can eat fermented foods but you need to be very selective and cautious about what you feed your dog.
Fermented foods can provide beneficial probiotics that can help support your dog’s digestive health and immune system.
Fermented foods that are safe for dogs include:
- Plain natural yogurt
Make sure that there is no added sugar or artificial flavoring in these fermented foods.
Avoid fermented foods that contain ingredients that can be toxic to your dog. If you are in a pinch and have Yakult at home, your dog can drink some Yakult for the time being.
But you need to moderate the amount as Yakult contains sugar and dairy.
If you have time on your hands and would like to try making homemade fermented vegetables for your dog, you can check out this video.
I prefer convenience so I tend to just buy pet-grade probiotics that I find in pet stores.
Can Dogs Eat Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is a very popular fermented dish that is widely eaten in Europe. It is also made from cabbage and is also rich in probiotics.
Sauerkraut is also very high in sodium, coming in slower lower than kimchi at 661mg for 100g.
Given that it is so high in salt, it isn’t something that you want to feed your dog.