What’s kefir, you ask?
I’ve been making milk kefir for my dogs for years now! Milk kefir is a probiotic packed drink that is made from cultured/fermented milk. Think yogurt, only with even more probiotic goodness, and a thinner consistency.
I feel like I started making homemade kefir before kefir was cool! These days, kefir can easily be purchased in most grocery stores. I haven’t looked too closely into store bought kefir to be honest. I assume a lot of them probably have added sugars etc. that wouldn’t be the best for dogs.
Homemade kefir is really easy to make!
You can purchase kefir kits that allow you to make usually a couple batches of kefir. Alternatively, I purchased kefir grains which, if cared for properly, have a pretty much unlimited lifespan. I bought my kefir grains in March of 2015 and they are still going strong!
I’m not an all-knowing kefir guru – I’m sure you can do research and learn a lot more about kefir than what I’m going to share here. But I’ll tell you a little bit about my experience with it. Basically, kefir grains are weird little clumps of bacteria and yeasts. Sounds lovely right? When you put them in milk, the grains digest sugars/lactose in the milk, and in turn culture the milk.
What are the Benefits of Kefir?
Think of kefir like you would yogurt – only it’s better! Kefir contains more live strains of beneficial bacteria/yeasts than yogurt does. The strains of bacteria/yeast found in kefir can colonize the digestive tract.
So, if you haven’t figured it out yet, the main benefit of homemade kefir is its probiotic properties! Before discovering kefir, I used to give my dogs probiotic supplements daily to help with their digestion. Since the addition of kefir to their diet, I’ve been able to stop purchasing commercial probiotic supplements.
Because it helps maintain a healthy digestive tract, kefir is great for the immune system! It also contains calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B2, B12, D, and K. When I bring up kefir, dog owners often point out that many dogs don’t handle milk well. The bacteria/yeasts in kefir solve that problem! They digest the milk sugars/lactose, making kefir well tolerated even by people/pets who are lactose intolerant.
Is it Gross?
It sounds gross, right? I wasn’t crazy about the idea of fermenting milk in my kitchen when I first started our kefir journey. It doesn’t smell bad, which is one thing I was concerned about. Both my dogs will readily drink it – Fenrir especially enjoys it. The longer you leave it to ferment, the stronger the flavor. I’ve found that my dogs personally seem to enjoy lightly fermented kefir. If I forget about it and accidentally over ferment it, they usually don’t like it as much.
After feeding kefir to Kitsune for a while, I got brave and tried it myself. It has a flavor similar to plain yogurt, but to me tasted more tart. I don’t like it plain, but often drink it now as part of my morning smoothies, and sometimes add it to my cooking as well.
You can find lots of recipes for foods to make using kefir online – including things like kefir cheese, sour cream, etc. I typically just give my dogs a teaspoon or two plain with their breakfast, but I do occasionally make them kefir cheese treats as well. If you end up with too much kefir, you can freeze it. When your kefir grains reproduce, you can feed the excess to your pets, or dehydrate them. I usually feed my excess grains to the dogs, but do have some that I dehydrated in case something happens to my culture and I have to start over.
I could probably write a lot more about kefir, how exactly to make it, share recipes, etc, but this post would get way too long! If learning about kefir and what I do with it is something my readers are interested in, I’d definitely be willing to write more about it in the future.
Looking for more ideas for healthy “human” foods you can share with your dog? Check out my other blogging from A to Z challenge posts!
Have you ever tried kefir? What did you think of it? Does your dog like kefir?