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Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs: Benefits and Uses

Apple cider vinegar on table

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Over the past few years, natural remedies have been becoming more popular amongst pet parents. One of the common natural remedies used by people is apple cider vinegar and many have now started using it for their pets too. Apple cider vinegar for dogs is touted to have many health benefits ranging from weight reduction to helping with itchy skin and even flea control.  

Apple cider vinegar is made through the process of fermenting apples. The fermentation process results in an acidic vinegar that contains acetic acid, as well as some lactic, citric, and malic acids. It works as a pH balancer and digestive aid in the body.

Apple cider vinegar has been traced back all the way to 400 B.C. with Hippocrates using it for common ailments like the cold. However, there are not a lot of scientific studies that confirm these benefits, but numerous anecdotal reports show positive health results for people and their dogs. 

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for Dogs?

Dogs that are given apple cider vinegar may experience a healthier gastrointestinal (GI) system, better coat quality, and less allergies. This is because apple cider vinegar helps reduce the inflammation in the body and supports the immune system by balancing the pH. When giving dogs apple cider vinegar orally, it should be diluted with 50 percent water.   

Apple cider vinegar is slightly acidic with a pH of 3.1 to 5. Therefore, not every dog may benefit from oral ingestion of apple cider vinegar if they already have a pH in the optimal range. The pH is one of the most important balance systems in your dog’s body and plays a large role in whether or not your dog has optimal health. The optimal pH range for a dog is around 6-6.5 when measured in the urine and just over 7 when measured with a blood sample.  

A veterinarian can check this or pet parents can also purchase urine test strips through a human health pharmacy store to check their pet’s urine at home. Measuring your pet’s pH prior to using apple cider vinegar is not essential, but can be done if you find that your pet is not responding positively (feeling better, gastrointestinal issues resolving) when using apple cider vinegar. 

Many dogs have adapted to eating high-protein diets, but some processed diets that are higher in grains can cause a dog’s system to be too alkaline (pH higher than 7). Diseases that can result when your dog’s pH is out of the healthy range include urinary crystals, bladder stones, digestive disorders like vomiting/diarrhea, and even allergies. These dogs tend to show positive results when they are given apple cider vinegar, because it brings their pH down into a healthier range and supports optimal digestion by increasing the stomach acid required to break-down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in the food.

Apple cider vinegar also has disinfecting and cleaning properties. Many people use vinegar as a natural cleaning product. When using apple cider vinegar topically on dogs, it should be diluted 50/50 with water and should never be used undiluted. Pet parents should do a 24-hour spot test to make sure there are no adverse reactions to applying apple cider vinegar topically. Adverse reactions may show up as vomiting, reddish skin, itching, and scratching. 

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs

Dog with itchy skin

There are numerous benefits of apple cider vinegar for dogs. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to help reduce itchy skin from skin infections to poison ivy.  It has also been used to rebalance the pH in the body to optimize immune health. 

When dogs develop itchy ears or ear infections that often accompany allergies, apple cider vinegar can be used in mixtures to clean the ears and reduce yeast overgrowth.  

Dilute apple cider vinegar can also be a safe and effective house cleaner and can be added to your dog’s bath when they are experiencing skin conditions. 

Because apple cider vinegar affects the pH of the body and appears to possess antibacterial effects, it can also be used to help reduce urinary tract infections in dogs. 

Here is a list of some of the benefits of apple cider vinegar for dogs:

  • Reduces itchy skin
  • Cleans itchy ears
  • Detoxes the kidneys
  • Improves dandruff
  • Acts as a safe and effective house cleaner
  • Reduces GI symptoms like gassiness and burping
  • Reduces recurrence of urinary tract infections

Apple Cider Vinegar for a Dog’s Ears

Pug getting ears cleaned

Apple cider vinegar works by rebalancing the pH, whether it is being used internally or when being used topically. One of the most common uses in dogs is on the ears, whether it is treating an ear infection or being used as a natural ear cleaner.  

Many dogs with skin allergies also develop ear infections. Apple cider vinegar can clean a dog’s ears and rebalance the skin pH, but it will also dry out ears to combat yeast and bacterial infections. When using apple cider vinegar around your dog’s ears, remember to never use it on raw or open sores since it is an acid and will burn and cause irritation. The vinegar should always be diluted to at least a 50/50 mixture with water. 

An easy ear cleaner recipe is to use half apple cider vinegar with half purified water, soak a cotton ball, and wipe out the ears until there is no more gunk coming out of the ear. It is not recommended to pour the mixture in the ear canal.  Some ear infections have ruptured ear drums and if this mixture gets into the middle ear, diseases like vestibular disease or exacerbation of a middle ear infection can develop. If there are any signs of sensitivity to the dog when using this dilute mixture, stop applying the mixture to the ear and seek veterinary advice. 

Apple Cider Vinegar for a Dog’s Skin

Dog in bathtub

Dogs with itchy skin and dandruff may also benefit from apple cider vinegar. One of the best ways to help is to use an apple cider vinegar bath for dogs. The acidity in the vinegar helps balance the pH of the skin, while its antiseptic and antibacterial properties help resolve skin infections naturally. It also helps calm skin irritations and inflammation to help dogs feel better.  

With sensitive dogs, a 24-hour spot test should always be used first to make sure the dog does not develop vomiting, increased irritation, or redness. 

A dilute solution of 50/50 apple cider vinegar and purified water can also be added to a spray bottle and applied to the dog’s fur to improve coat quality and dandruff. Make sure to avoid any open sores or hotspots with this mixture. 

There are numerous recipes that use this 50/50 mixture prior to shampoo to help with coat quality. Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar can be added to a quart of water and applied after shampooing, without rinsing off, for an added benefit of repelling pests and longer-lasting coat benefits. Make sure to do a 24-hour spot test prior to this to ensure your dog tolerates the treatment.   

Types and Forms of Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs

Apple cider vinegar pouring on spoon

When using apple cider vinegar, the organic version with the “mother” should be used for health benefits. This refers to the yeast and bacteria that is formed during fermentation. This form of apple cider vinegar is raw, unpasteurized, and unheated and contains the enzymes and live factors that make it beneficial for dog’s health. The label will indicate if the “mother” is present in that product. 

Apple cider vinegar comes in different forms ranging from the standard liquid version to homemade topical sprays, wipes, and pill form. However, when using apple cider vinegar for dogs, the best forms are to use the liquid version or homemade sprays. Many of the human wipes and capsules may contain other ingredients that can be toxic to dogs, like xylitol. Also, the “mother” version has more beneficial properties than some of the capsules that do not contain the live enzymes.  

For GI issues, like excessive gas or burping in dogs, using the liquid version of apple cider vinegar is the most beneficial. Adding 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar to the water bowl or food once a day is recommended. If adding to the water, ensure there is a water bowl without apple cider vinegar available in case the dog does not like the flavor. Never give undiluted apple cider vinegar directly to your dog. 

For skin and ear issues, topical use is ideal using a diluted 50/50 water and apple cider vinegar mixture in a spray bottle or on a cotton ball to clean out the ears.  

Side Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs

If your dog has too low of a pH (less than 6), giving apple cider vinegar (which is more acidic) in their food or water may cause side effects, like vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and other GI symptoms. 

If you give apple cider vinegar to your dog and notice these adverse effects, you could have your dog’s pH levels checked by your local veterinarian to determine if apple cider vinegar may help. 

If your dog has health conditions, like kidney disease, that can lead to a more acidic pH in your dog’s body, these diseases could be exacerbated by giving apple cider vinegar orally. One of the simplest ways to assess your pet’s pH levels are with urine test strips or a pH check by your veterinarian.  

Due to apple cider vinegar’s acidity, make sure to avoid getting it in your dog’s eyes. Never give apple cider vinegar undiluted to your dog since it is acidic. Also, never use apple cider vinegar on open wounds, cuts, or sores because it burns. Using apple cider vinegar too frequently may also lead to dry skin and irritation in some dogs. 

Where to Buy Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs

Apple cider vinegar with mother enzyme

Organic apple cider vinegar products with the “mother” are available in most grocery stores or in natural human stores. You may see it in pet-specific tonics or as plain, human-grade apple cider vinegar.

When shopping for apple cider vinegar, the label should indicate raw, organic, unfiltered, and with the “mother” to ensure that it is a higher quality product. The unfiltered products appear cloudy with stringy material, whereas commercially produced apple cider vinegar is not a real traditional apple cider vinegar and will appear clear.  

Unpasteurized products are recommended because the high-heat process of pasteurization will kill the beneficial bacteria. Organic is ideal to avoid unwanted pesticides being present in the product. 

Apple cider vinegar has many potential health benefits for dogs when it is used appropriately.  If your dog has potential health risks make sure to discuss adding in apple cider vinegar with your veterinarian to ensure it is the right treatment option and will not lead to harm. 

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