As all of us dog owners know, it can be difficult to have a meal on our own if our furry friends are around. Anything you eat, they want to eat as well! If you’re having some Korean kimchi, you may be wondering if it’s okay to share some. Can dogs eat kimchi? Is it safe for them? Let’s find out!
What is kimchi?
Kimchi, or kimchee, is a Korean side dish that’s been steadily gaining traction in other parts of the world in the past few years. It’s a traditional preparation of fermented vegetables. Usually, kimchi is made with cabbage or Korean radish (also known as mu) and seasoned with things like spring onion, garlic, normal onion, chilli pepper and more. There are loads of different varieties: Baechu-kimchi (with whole napa cabbage leaves), kkakdugi (with radish and fermented shrimp), nabak (watery kimchi) and many, many more.
This dish is made by salting the vegetables first. This, along with the red pepper flakes, will prevent food-spoiling bacteria from being able to wreak havoc later. After salting, the desired seasonings are added. Then, everything is canned and left to ferment, at which point different species of micro-organisms called lactic acid bacteria start doing their work eating the sugars and converting them into lactic acid. Sounds gross if you’re not familiar with the concept, but keep in mind that this is the same process used to produce things like yogurt and sauerkraut! The bacterial activity gives a tangy and refined flavor.
In Korea, kimchi is a dish of great cultural significance. Because it can be stored long-term, it would help people through the winter, and it’s still eaten almost daily in many families. It’s also considered healthy due to its low fat and high fiber content, plus the probiotic benefits resulting from the fermentation process. No wonder we’re seeing it up more and more here in the US! It’s pungent, but many people love it.
Can dogs eat kimchi?
Okay, so it’s clear that kimchi is safe for humans, and even good for them. It has been around in some form or another for thousands of years, and its fermented nature makes it beneficial to our digestive systems. But does the same go for our furry pets? Can dogs eat kimchi?
The short answer is yes, you can share a bit of kimchi with your dog without any ill effect. If you dropped some on the floor and your pooch swooped in before you could prevent it (also a common occurrence, as us dog owners know), there’s no need to panic.
This being said, kimchi isn’t one of the foods we’d recommend including in your dog’s diet on a regular basis, at least not the versions we like to eat as side dishes while having rice. The thing with kimchi is that although cabbage or Korean radish in and of itself are fine for dogs, and they can benefit from the probiotic properties of lactic acid bacteria, this dish is seasoned with all sorts of ingredients that aren’t ideal for our pets.
It starts with the salt. Salt is necessary to prevent spoilage and even blooms of dangerous bacteria like Salmonella during the fermentation process, but there’s so much of it in most kimchi that it can have negative effects on our dogs if they eat it in large amounts. Then there are the seasonings, most of which just aren’t very dog-friendly. Fermented shrimp are fine, but Alliums like onion, spring onion and garlic aren’t really. Neither are red pepper flakes. While they’re not present in kimchi in huge amounts, your dog can still end up with digestive issues if it overindulges.
All in all, if you want to make some kimchi, it’s best to just share the vegetables with your dog before you process them! A little bit won’t hurt, but don’t make it a regular thing.
Can dogs eat fermented foods?
Yes, as mentioned, dogs can eat fermented foods. In fact, they can even enjoy some of the same benefits of lactic acid bacteria activity as humans do! The fermentation process makes vegetables easier to digest..The only downside is the salt content, because as we discussed, fermented foods will often have plenty of salt added in order to make them safe to eat.
You can make some special doggy kimchi if you want. The trick is in reducing the sodium and leaving out the seasonings that your pooch’s stomach won’t be able to deal with, something like this recipe but without all the garlic and pepper. That way, you get all the vitamins, probiotics and other advantages of fermented cabbage or radish, but without the unhealthy aspects of traditional kimchi.
Conclusion: Can dogs eat kimchi?
So, can dogs eat kimchi? Yes, it’s fine for your dog to have a small amount of traditional Korean kimchi. If you want to make fermented vegetables a regular part of its diet, though, you’re best off making a low-salt version free of Alliums and spicy pepper yourself at home.
Interested in knowing more about which foods your dog can and can’t eat? Have a look at the section on safety for many other dog food safety guides.