Are you wondering about using apple cider vinegar for dogs? This type of vinegar, made from fermented apple cider, is commonly used as a home remedy for humans. It is employed in a number of different situations. So many believe that it must also be useful in treating the same problems in dogs. Let’s discuss it in more detail.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar For Dogs?
You may have already been using it in salad dressings for years, but have you ever really thought about where apple cider vinegar comes from or how it’s made?
Apple cider vinegar is brewed using yeast and bacteria to turn the sugars in apple juice into alcohol, and then into acetic acid. Acetic acid is the pungent sour taste we think of as “vinegary.” Then, the vinegar goes in one of two directions. Either the vinegar is filtered and pasteurized (this is the stuff we usually find in grocery stores), or it’s left raw, or unfiltered and unpasteurized.
Raw cider vinegar is often advertised as still containing the “mother.” Mother of vinegar is a cobweb-like substance formed of yeast and bacteria from the fermentation process, and small quantities of cellulose and proteins. It gives vinegar a cloudy appearance, and according to manufacturers who promote apple cider vinegar as a health supplement, it’s the best bit.
Apple cider vinegar is used to improve digestion, quicken metabolism, and aid those with diabetes, among other things. Conceivably, those same benefits could apply in the case of a dog.
Apple Cider Vinegar For Dogs: Quick Links
Follow the links below to jump to more information about these common questions.
- Is apple cider vinegar safe for dogs?
- Using apple cider vinegar to treat fleas
- Using apple cider vinegar to treat skin problems
- Apple cider vinegar for hot spots
- Using apple cider vinegar to treat ear infections
- Using apple cider vinegar to treat UTIs
- Tear stains and apple cider vinegar
- Alternatives to apple cider vinegar for dogs
The Science Behind Apple Cider Vinegar For Dogs
We’ve been finding new uses for vinegar since at least 400 BC, but not many uses for apple cider vinegar have been backed up by science. However, in humans, we know that apple cider vinegar can improve insulin sensitivity after a meal. A study from Arizona State University is just one in recent years exploring the parameters of how apple cider vinegar could help people with diabetes.
There’s also a small amount of evidence that consuming apple cider vinegar with meals makes us feel fuller for longer, which could help people lose weight. And moving outside humans, researchers in Japan have found that acetic acid reduces blood pressure in rats.
However, remedies that work well for humans don’t necessarily translate to dogs. There are many reasons why this could be. Perhaps there’s something fundamentally different in the way their body works. Other remedies don’t work across different species because the difference in their diet interferes with the chemistry. So that said, is there any scientific research specifically endorsing apple cider vinegar for dogs?
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Safe For Dogs?
I can’t find any scientific studies that either prove or disprove benefits of apple cider vinegar for dogs. Lack of scientific backing doesn’t necessarily mean that remedies don’t work. But research published in scientific journals gives us a quantifiable way of describing how well something works.
Most importantly, it rules out the element of fluke, and proves the causal link between a remedy and the effect. It also gives us valuable information about things like dosage, how long treatment should last, side effects, and when not to use something.
Much of the information about apple cider vinegar for dogs is provided by pet parents, rather than scientific studies. While experience is important, it’s even more important to stress the following point.
Always consult with your vet before using an apple cider vinegar remedy on your dog. Because all of these remedies are anecdotal, there’s no information sheet that comes with the bottle to tell us how to use them safely. Your vet can advise if something in our dog’s make up or medical history has the potential to take apple cider vinegar from beneficial (or at least benign) to dangerous.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Bad For Dogs?
Apple cider vinegar should not be toxic or poisonous to your dog. But can it have other ill effects, such as upsetting their stomach? As with many things, a small amount isn’t likely to cause any stomach upset. But dogs should definitely not be drinking a significant amount of apple cider vinegar.
Remember, it isn’t recommended for humans to use more than two tablespoons per day. And we are meant to dilute the vinegar in water. So it should be less for a dog, as they are smaller than we are.
Can You Give Apple Cider Vinegar To Dogs?
Advocates of apple cider vinegar believe that apple cider vinegar in dog water repels fleas. They also believe it gives their dog a glossier coat, and even protects against dehydration by masking the taste of unfamiliar drinking water if you travel with a pooch who’s fussy about such things. But as I’ve said, there’s no veterinary medical evidence to prove any of these benefits really exist.
For many dogs, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a bowlful of water, or licking residue from their coat is unlikely to cause any harm. However, consuming too much could lead to stomach upsets. How much is too much depends on the size of your dog, and their general constitution.
So, yes, you can give apple cider vinegar to dogs. It’s best only to start with a small amount and make sure that your dog has no bad reaction to the vinegar. Additionally, it’s always best to check with your vet before you use any home remedy on your pet. Apple cider vinegar has many of the same potential benefits for dogs as it does for humans. We’ll look at some of these further on in this article.
Can You Use Apple Cider Vinegar On Dogs?
What about topical use of apple cider vinegar for dogs? Many believe that a topical application of apple cider vinegar can help dogs with painful, itchy, or irritated skin. It is also often used as a cleansing agent. However, it should be remembered that apple cider vinegar is vinegar. If you apply it to a broken patch of skin, it will hurt!
Using Apple Cider Vinegar For Fleas On Dogs
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are tiny insects that seem to love living on our beloved pets. They can be a persistent and irritating problem for a dog and for his owner. They may lead a dog to scratch and bite himself, losing fur and even damaging skin in the process. There are many types of medicinal treatment for a flea infestation, and it’s always best to check with your vet if fleas are persistent and resistant to medication.
Apple Cider Vinegar For Fleas
One of the most popular uses of apple cider vinegar for dogs is as a low-tech home remedy for fleas.
It’s true that the apple cider vinegar solution will probably repel fleas. Who wouldn’t move on if they were doused in vinegar? But there are lots of caveats to this approach. For instance, apple cider vinegar won’t kill the fleas. It’ll only make them jump off your dog. Which, of course, means they’ll still be looking for any opportunity to jump back on again, or onto you.
Even diluted apple cider vinegar can irritate your dog’s skin and eyes. Be especially careful using home brew vinegar, since the concentration of acetic acid can be variable. You’ll need to soak your dog to the skin with apple cider vinegar solution. If your dog has a thick double coat, you probably already know that this can be a mammoth effort.
Apple Cider Vinegar Dosages For Dogs With Fleas
Apple cider vinegar fans often recommend using a 50:50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water in a spray bottle, and squirting it into your dog’s coat to fight off fleas. Alternatively, you could give your dog an apple cider vinegar dog bath, by splashing some into their bath water. This approach would need to be done regularly. It would likely need to be much more frequently than the amount you would normally bathe your dog.
Using Apple Cider Vinegar For Dog Itching Remedies
Why Do Dogs Itch?
Dogs can get itchy for any number of reasons. It could be anything from an allergic reaction to something, to an internal issue, to particularly dry weather. Itchy skin is a common reaction to many problems, for dogs. Does apple cider vinegar help?
Apple Cider Vinegar For Itchiness
Apple cider for dogs’ itchy skin is another frequently-listed use. Like all vinegars, apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties. Which is to say, it can kill some of the microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. These cause the itchy skin conditions that cause our dogs so much misery. But it’s not to say that it can kill all types of microbe, in any number.
Apple Cider Vinegar Dosages For Dogs With Itchiness
To treat an itchy spot with apple cider vinegar, bathe your dog with a 50:50 solution of apple cider vinegar and water. It is up to you whether you want to completely bathe your dog in the solution, or simply the problem area.
Using Apple Cider Vinegar For Hot Spots On Dogs
What Are Hot Spots?
Hot spots are painful lesions on dogs’ skin. They begin with a small break in the skin, caused by a bite from a flea or mite, an allergic reaction, or a scratch. When bacteria (which otherwise might have existed harmlessly on the surface of the skin) get into the break, they begin to explode in numbers, causing inflammation and itching.
Hot spots are quickly made worse by dogs’ natural reflex to scratch and chew the itchy infected area.
Apple Cider Vinegar For Hot Spots
Since hot spots = bacterial infection and vinegar is antimicrobial, does apple cider vinegar cure hot spots? As you can probably imagine, putting vinegar, even dilute vinegar, onto broken skin is going to sting like a thousand burning needles. So no, we definitely do not recommend putting apple cider vinegar on hot spots!
Using Apple Cider Vinegar For Dogs’ Ear Infections
What Are Ear Infections?
Ear infections can be triggered by a number of issues. These range from illness and environmental factors to parasites or even just inadequate cleaning.
Apple Cider Vinegar For Dogs’ Ears
So can apple cider vinegar be used to treat ear infections? It seems reasonable, since vinegar can be used effectively against bacteria. The big problem here is that the ear is a complex and minute structure. Therefore, even if apple cider vinegar is effective against the type of bacteria present, and could take out that many bacteria, getting it to all of the infected area may be nigh-on impossible.
Meanwhile, the infection is getting worse, and as anyone who’s ever had an ear infection can tell you, they’re very painful and completely miserable.
The Merck Veterinary Manual advises against using any vinegar solution in the ears. So if your dog has any discharge, odor, redness or swelling around his ears, or he’s scratching them more than usual, take him to a vet.
Using Apple Cider Vinegar For UTI Treatment In Dogs
What Is A UTI?
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is basically what it sounds like. They are very common in both humans and animals. Like most infections, they can be triggered by a number of factors, and need to be treated in order to go away. UTIs are uncomfortable and unpleasant. Though they often are not detected right away, they can be treated quickly and effectively once they are diagnosed.
Apple Cider Vinegar For Dog UTIs
Can apple cider vinegar help with dog UTIs? Needless to say, without any evidence to back it up, we don’t recommend using apple cider vinegar as a first resort when your dog has a UTI. Some owners also report using apple cider vinegar as a daily supplement to protect their dogs against recurring UTIs. If this is something you’re interested in, talk it over with your vet first.
Using Apple Cider Vinegar For Tear Stains On Dogs
What Are Tear Stains?
Tear stains are deposits of a compound called porphyrin, which slowly turn the fur at inner corner of a dog’s’ eyes a rusty red color. They are most visible on dogs with pale-colored coats.
Porphyrin is a waste product of digesting food with iron in it. Most is gotten rid of via your dog’s bile and feces, but some is excreted in the tears and saliva as well.
Apple Cider Vinegar For Tear Stains
If your dog has heavy tear stains, they need to see their vet before you attempt any home treatments. Heavy tear stains can be a symptom of ingrown eyelashes, structural problems with the tear duct, poor diet, or infection, amongs other causes. If tear stains are a symptom of something more sinister, that thing needs to be found and treated before the tear stains (which may clear up of their own accord afterwards!)
I’ve found that people’s rationale and regimes for using apple cider to treat dog tear stains vary massively and are often contradictory. And as you’ve probably guessed, there is no evidence to back up any of them, so they’re not getting my endorsement here.
Side Effects Of Apple Cider Vinegar For Dogs
While it sounds ideal to use a natural home remedy to take care of any problems that pop up, it’s best to keep in mind that there are potential side effects to everything. Simply because something is “natural” does not mean that there won’t be effects in addition to the intended result. For example, using too much or too strong a concentration of apple cider vinegar can dry out a dog’s skin, taking away the benefit of using it as a remedy for itchy skin. And allowing your dog to drink too much or too strong a concentration of apple cider vinegar can cause stomach upset.
Though there aren’t many clinical studies on the ill effects of dogs and apple cider vinegar, the section on vinegar on the Poison Control website includes real life examples of what the misuse or overuse of vinegar has caused for humans.
Alternatives To Apple Cider Vinegar For Dogs
Many may have read about the possible benefits of apple cider vinegar for dogs, but be leery of using it. After all, there isn’t a lot of scientific research to back up the claims. What other options are there for attaining those benefits?
It’s always a good idea, as we’ve mentioned, to speak to your vet about any problems that your dog is having. A trained veterinarian who knows your dog well is in the best position to advise you on health and treatment options. Here are some articles that cover treatment options for some of the problems mentioned in this article.
- Ear problems and how to treat them
- Apoquel for itchy skin
Apple Cider Benefits For Dogs
So, there’s no scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar is good for dogs. But plenty of dog owners will testify that apple cider has helped their dogs. Are they right or wrong? Well, they could be right. Just because apple cider vinegar cures aren’t backed up by science yet, doesn’t mean they don’t work. But there’s another interesting possibility too, and that’s the placebo effect. The placebo effect is when we believe a treatment is working, even though the “treatment” is demonstrably doing nothing.
Surely when we treat our pets, we’re capable of being totally objective about whether they’re working? Not so! In 2009 researchers at North Carolina State University found the owners of epileptic dogs taking part in a trial for an anti-seizure drugs reported fewer seizures even if their dog was receiving the placebo treatment. And in 2012, vets at the University of Minnesota found that nearly half of 58 dog owners given a placebo to “treat” their dog’s osteoarthritis reported that their lameness improved.
We still don’t understand exactly how the placebo effect happens, but it’s entirely possible that many advocates of apple cider vinegar are also seeing results that haven’t really happened.
Giving Apple Cider Vinegar To Your Dog
Proponents recommend apple cider vinegar for dogs on everything from treating fleas to UTIs, but none of these uses have been tested under controlled laboratory conditions yet. For many dogs, apple cider vinegar will be, if not beneficial, then at least benign.
We never recommend giving your dog apple cider vinegar without chatting it over with your vet first. You should never use it in place of prescribed veterinary treatment, as you risk causing your dog to suffer a condition for longer than they would have otherwise had to.
Have you tried giving your dog apple cider vinegar? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
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References and Further Reading
- Apple Cider Vinegar Dosage, Healthline
- Fleas In Dogs And Cats, Merck Vet Manual
- Ear Infection In Dogs, Merck Vet Manual
- Vinegar, Poison Control
- Munana, K, et al. 2010. Placebo Effect in Canine Epilepsy Trials. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
- Conzemius, M, et al. 2012. Caregiver Placebo Effect For Dogs With Lameness. AVMA
- Ostman, E, et al. 2005. Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. European Journal Of Nutrition
- Kondo, S, et al. 2001. Antihypertensive effects of acetic acid and vinegar on spontaneously hypertensive rats
- Johnston, C, et al. 2004. Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care
This article has been extensively revised and updated for 2019.