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Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs: Benefits and Uses

Apple cider vinegar for dogs on table
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Over the past few years, natural remedies have become more popular among pet parents. You may have heard about using apple cider vinegar for people, but how about using apple cider vinegar for dogs?

Apple cider vinegar promises many health benefits ranging from reducing weight to alleviating itchy skin and even controlling fleas.  

The medicinal benefits of apple cider vinegar trace back all the way to 400 B.C. with Hippocrates using it for common ailments like the cold. While there are limited scientific studies confirming these benefits, many anecdotal reports show positive health results for people and their dogs. Here’s everything you need to know before considering apple cider vinegar for your dog.

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for Dogs?

When given in the right dosage, dogs that are given apple cider vinegar may benefit from a healthier gastrointestinal (GI) system, better coat quality, fewer allergy symptoms, and more. This is because apple cider vinegar helps reduce the inflammation in the body and supports the immune system by balancing pH levels.   

Your dog’s pH levels represent one of the most important indicators of his health. Apple cider vinegar is slightly acidic with a pH of 3.1 to 5. Since the optimal pH range for a dog is around 6-6.5, not every dog may benefit from oral ingestion of 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 given apple cider vinegar, because it brings their pH down into a healthier range. This return-to-balance supports optimal digestion by increasing the stomach acid required to break-down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in the food.

Beyond affecting internal chemistry, apple cider vinegar also has disinfecting and cleaning properties. Many people use vinegar as a natural cleaning product, but it can also be used to treat topical issues like skin allergies and ear infections in your dog. Read on to learn more about how to administer it safely and potential side effects to look out for.

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs

Dog with itchy skin before taking apple cider vinegar for allergies

There are numerous benefits of apple cider vinegar for dogs. Dog owners primarily turn to it for topical issues, like skin and ear problems, but 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. Diluted apple cider vinegar can also be added to your dog’s bath when they are experiencing skin conditions. 

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

  • Reduces itchy skin
  • Cleans itchy ears
  • 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 with apple cider vinegar for dogs

Apple cider vinegar works by rebalancing the pH. A popular home remedy for ear infections in dogs, apple cider vinegar cleans and neutralizes bacteria when used topically.

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. Always dilute the vinegar to at least a 50/50 mixture with water. 

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. Do not pour the mixture directly in the ear canal.  Some ear infections have ruptured ear drums, and if this mixture gets into the middle ear, complications 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

Pup in bathtub

Dogs with itchy skin, dandruff, and even fleas 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. Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a quart of water and apply after shampooing, without rinsing off, for an added benefit of repelling pests and a healthier coat. Make sure to do a 24-hour spot test prior to this to ensure your dog tolerates the treatment.   

Other Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs

The benefits of apple cider vinegar for dogs don’t stop at topical problems like skin or ear irritation. Many new studies suggest that it can also have a positive impact on internal health when given as an oral supplement. While the science is still early, research shows that apple cider vinegar has real potential to help the following ailments:

Diabetes. A recent study suggests that apple cider vinegar helps regulate blood sugar in animals, and that’s good news if your dog struggles with diabetes. The findings show that ACV possesses significant antihyperglycemic and antioxidant effects, which can help prevent diabetic complications in the liver and kidney.

Heart Health. – In addition to helping regular blood sugar, another recent study suggests that apple cider vinegar can also reduce blood pressure in animals. So if your dog has hypertension or pre-hypertension, giving him a proper dosage of apple cider vinegar as a supplement may be a good idea.

Muscle and Joint Pain. Used by humans for the same reason, apple cider vinegar’s anti-inflammatory properties may help alleviate some soreness in dogs’ muscles and joints. This is especially exciting for owners of senior dogs, who are more prone to this type of discomfort as a natural consequence of age.

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Your Dog

Apple cider vinegar for dogs pouring on spoon

When using apple cider vinegar, use the organic version with the “mother” for the most health benefits. The mother refers to the yeast and bacteria formed during fermentation. This type of apple cider vinegar is raw, unpasteurized, and unheated, containing 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.  

Dosage: How Much Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs is OK?

For GI issues, like excessive gas or burping in dogs, using the liquid version of apple cider vinegar is the most beneficial. Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water bowl or food once a day. 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. Use 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

Dogs with too low of a pH (less than 6) may experience side effects, like vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and other GI symptoms after ingesting apple cider vinegar through their food or water.

If you give apple cider vinegar to your dog and notice these adverse effects, you should have your dog’s pH levels checked by your veterinarian to determine if apple cider vinegar is really the right solution. 

Oral administration of apple cider vinegar can exacerbate health conditions like kidney disease, which often mean a more acidic pH in your dog’s body. 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. 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 containing the “mother” to ensure that it is a higher quality product. Quality, 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.  

Go with an unpasteurized product, as the high-heat process of pasteurization kills 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 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.