Features March 2017 Issue

Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs

Apple Cider Vinegar is a legendary folk remedy that can treat dog ailments like hot spots, bladder infections, itchy skin and more - provided you combine it with a dose of sensibility.

[Updated March 20, 2018]

Browsing through Internet postings about the benefits of apple cider vinegar will likely give you pause. Some laud it as a wonder product for everything – including curing cancer! Then you find the naysayers, who cite the FDA’s stand that apple cider vinegar has no nutrients. Of course, you already realize the truth is somewhere between.

It won’t cure cancer, but some research shows it shrinking tumors. Apple cider vinegar will not cure diabetes, either, although it’s been shown to help with blood sugar control.

The FDA is correct: apple cider vinegar contains only trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, except potassium. ACV has 11 grams of potassium in a tablespoon. But despite not being packed with essential nutrients, ACV does have health benefits for people and animals. The strong antioxidant and antibacterial qualities of apple cider vinegar is enough reason to include it in your dog’s care regimen.

Apple cider vinegar is made from just apples and water, making it completely safe for dogs. It is slightly acidic, with a pH of 3.1 to 5, which gives it properties that can soothe a dog’s overly alkalized digestive tract. Add a teaspoon of ACV to your dog’s water bowl and see if he’ll drink it! (Explained in detail later.)

For topical use, create an apple cider vinegar rinse for after your dog’s bath, as a remedy for irritated skin or a dry coat (1 cup ACV per 2-4 cups water). It’s common for dogs to get yeast infections in their paws; soaking your dog’s paws in ACV will relieve that too. When diluted and added to a spray bottle, apple cider vinegar is a strong disinfectant and even works as a mild flea repellent. See more ways you can use ACV for dogs below.

11 Ways Dog Lovers Can Use ACV

So, how much can apple cider vinegar benefit your dog? Quite a bit, actually, provided you are sensible about your expectations. Apple cider vinegar may help dogs with:

1. Itchy, flaking skin and dull coats

2. Relief from hot spots

3. Repelling fleas

4. Keeping a dog's ears clean, lessening the chance of infection

5. Improving digestion by balancing pH levels in a dog's body

6. Ridding itchy paws and skin of bacteria

7. Relieving muscle soreness in older or active dogs

8. Rinsing soap residue or offensive odors from your dog’s coat

9. Preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs)

10. Helping relieve bladder stones in dogs

11. Fighting yeast infections on dogs' paws

12. Diluting pet stains and odors in the home

Bragg's acv

Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar contains the “mother,” a gooey bit of beneficial bacteria-rich debris from fermentation. This can be added to food, and diluted with water and used for cleaning canine ears, soaking paws, and as a skin-soothing rinse.

Apple cider vinegar is made from apples/apple pectin. All vinegars are made from a liquid containing sugar, so apple vinegar begins as water and apples. When exposed to air, yeasts can grow, which cause the sugar to ferment and become alcohol. As it continues to ferment, natural (or added) acetic acid bacteria turn the alcohol into acetic acid, which is the main component of vinegar. Acetic acid is what gives vinegar its taste, smell and benefits. The word “vinegar” means “sour wine”, and indeed, red wine vinegar is simply red wine that's been acetified.

Apple Cider Vinegar Dosage for Dogs

You’re familiar with apple cider vinegar as an ingredient in recipes, like salad dressings, dips, and drinks. It’s a healthy choice.

Although research on apple cider vinegar’s benefits is minimal, the test of time has made it a viable alternative for a number of everyday physical complaints and problems. Most experts agree that its documented human benefits also help dogs.

As is often the case, the exact dosage isn’t cast in stone, and you may need to experiment. Some people add it to food, at a rate of one teaspoon to one tablespoon for a 50-pound dog. Never feed straight apple cider vinegar. If you don’t see the desired benefit within 30 days of feeding apple cider vinegar, chances are it’s not working for that problem.

Many dog owners add it to the dog’s water bowl, but start with a small amount – a tablespoon in a big bowl of water, perhaps – and watch to make sure your dog still drinks the water readily before increasing the amount. However, when you add anything to water, be make sure you make a second bowl of plain water available, too. The last thing you want to do is curb your dog’s daily water intake.

That said, dogs who are used to the taste of apple cider vinegar in their water often find it easier to adjust to new water tastes, such as when traveling.

Apple cider vinegar helps digestion by increasing the stomach’s acid levels, which results in better absorption and fewer gastrointestinal symptoms like burps and gas. Apple cider vinegar promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the dog’s digestive tract. Some dog owners mix it into plain yogurt.

Research shows it lowers post-meal glucose levels in humans, and it can relieve constipation - of course, that means overdo it and you may face a messy outcome.

A dose of apple cider vinegar can help with minor bladder inflammation, too, but it won’t cure an actual urinary tract infection. That needs immediate veterinary attention.

Since apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties, mainly antibacterial, it may interrupt the development of some infections. Feeding it may help combat teary eye stains.

Be careful, though. You can feed too much apple cider vinegar. The first early symptom is usually vomiting. If you ignore that, you may eventually find increased tooth decay and decreased bone health. It can also irritate the mouth and linings of the esophagus.

ACV is a Safe, Reliable Disinfectant

Vinegar is a well-known cleaner and mild disinfectant. (Some people won’t use anything but white vinegar to clean their windows.) Apple cider vinegar’s cleansing and disinfecting qualities can be good for your dog, too. (If you’ve never used it before or your dog is the “sensitive” sort, do a 24-hour spot test before applying it to the dog’s entire body. Signs of allergy would include vomiting, reddish skin, and/or itching and scratching.)

Diluted 50-50 with water and applied using a sprayer or a sponge, an apple cider vinegar rinse will remove leftover soap residue after a bath, help alleviate dandruff and itchy skin and leave the coat shiny and soft. To use it as a dandruff preventative, rub the diluted solution into the dog’s skin just prior to giving him a bath (never do this without having done the 24-hour spot test), then wash it off in the bath.

dog getting bath

After shampooing and rinsing your dog, try giving him a final rinse with a solution of half water and half apple cider vinegar for a shiny, soft coat.

If you’re like most of us, and prefer to minimize your dog’s exposure to chemicals, apple cider vinegar might be the answer for a natural flea and/or flying insect repellent. While it’s not the answer for a flea infestation, it does a good job combatting small incidences, such as added protection on a walk during heavy bug season.

Apple cider vinegar has a cooling sensation, making it a good choice for small topical problems, like burns, bruises, and hot spots. Be careful, though. If the wound is at all open or raw, apple cider vinegar will sting!

It’s especially useful to minimize itchy feet and ears. Thoroughly soak the dog’s paws in a vinegar-water mix. Use cotton swab or gauze pads soaked in the mixture to clean ears.

A massage with a diluted ACV mix will go a long way toward relieving strained muscles from overactivity. Warm the solution slightly for added benefit.

Although you may read articles to the contrary, apple cider vinegar is not a strong choice for treating lice, fungus, warts, or ear infections. Your best bet in these situations is veterinary attention!

Since ACV is a great deodorizer and safe for your dog, you can use it to disinfect dog toys and bedding. Spray it anywhere you need odor control and/or a gentle disinfectant.

What Kind of Vinegar is Best for Dogs?

Like most things nowadays, the choices for vinegar border on over-whelming. You’ll see words like raw, natural, unpasteurized, organic, and unfiltered. There are also white vinegars, balsamic vinegars, and wine vinegars. We’re looking at apple cider vinegar, which is usually an amber color (light or dark) and made from apples.

For health uses, choose raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, preferably in a glass bottle. Why?

“Raw” or “unfiltered” apple cider has the “mother” in it, which is the name of the brown stuff at the bottom of the bottle. These are fermentation leftovers, and they include all the good live bacteria and enzymes that give the product its health benefits. Of course, if you’re using this vinegar for cleaning, you want to strain this out before you use it. (Can’t stand the look of the debris in the bottom? Then look for “filtered” apple cider vinegar, which was strained to remove the debris.)

“Unpasteurized” is recommended because the process of pasteurization – a heat process – can kill the good bacteria we want. If you’re willing to spend the extra buck or two, choose an organic apple cider vinegar. No reason not to avoid pesticides when you can, especially if your dog is going to eat the product.

Glass containers do not pose the risk (as plastic bottles can) of harmful chemicals leaching into the product.

Apple Cider Vinegar Controversy

In a past Whole Dog Journal article, we discussed some of controversies surrounding apple cider vinegar.

Not everyone agrees that apple cider vinegar should be given to dogs. Pat McKay, canine nutritionist and author of the natural diet book, Reigning Cats and Dogs, doesn’t like cider vinegar, and she doesn’t mince words; she calls it poison.

“I believe Peter J. D’Amado is on the right track in his book, Eat Right for Your Type,” she says. “Each of the human blood types has an ideal diet, and the diet recommended for type O most closely resembles the meat-based diet on which dogs evolved. D’Amado warns that cider vinegar is very damaging to this type, and I agree with him. I happen to be a type O, and apple cider vinegar has always made me feel miserable. I never knew why until I read his book. I believe dogs have a similar reaction because even small quantities of vinegar can throw their bodies’ pH out of balance.”

Marina Zacharias, pet nutritionist and publisher of Natural Rearing newsletter, shares McKay’s concern about pH levels. She recommends that owners have their dogs’ blood and urine tested before adding cider vinegar to their daily diet.

“If a dog’s system is too alkaline,” she says, “cider vinegar will help, but by itself it may not correct the problem and the dog will need additional support. If the dog’s system is too acidic, which is a condition called acidosis, the result can be stress on the pancreas and adrenal organs, which are important regulators of blood pH levels. The symptoms of acidosis range from diarrhea or constipation to low blood pressure, hard stools, and sensitivity of the teeth and mouth. Often we see acidosis in combination with other conditions, such as kidney, liver, and adrenal problems. In certain cases, adding vinegar to a dog’s food could aggravate an already-existing problem in the body.”

Are adverse side effects likely? If a dog is allergic to vinegar, he might vomit, scratch furiously, or have a similarly obvious reaction. Although there is much debate on this issue, some believe that vinegar may worsen chronic ear infections. Long term use of ACV on dogs who are sensitive to it has been associated with tooth decay and bone deterioration. Too much could also inflame a dog's mouth and esophagus. 

“You have to apply common sense,” says Sue Ann Lesser, D.V.M. “Most dogs are notoriously over-alkaline, and cider vinegar will help them. If a dog’s system is overly acidic, you’ll see clinical signs, such as obvious symptoms of illness. I know quite a few dogs that take cider vinegar according to the directions in Wendy Volhard’s book, and I don’t know of any that have had bad results.”

In her book The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, author Wendy Volhard recommends using pH paper strips to check the dog’s first morning urine. “If it reads anywhere from 6.2 to 6.5, your dog’s system is exactly where it should be,” and no ACV is needed, she says. “But if it is 7.5 or higher, the diet you are feeding is too alkaline, and apple cider vinegar will reestablish the correct balance.”

Volhard recommends one teaspoon to one tablespoon twice daily for a 50-pound dog.

Cynthia Foley is a freelance writer in upstate New York. She competes with her Papillons in dog agility.

Comments (11)

I had no idea that I had type II diabetes. I was diagnosed at age 50, after complaining to my doctor about being very tired. There is no family history of this disease. I'm a male and at the time of diagnosis, I weighed about 215. (I'm 6'2")Within 6 months, I had gained 30 to 35 pounds, and apparently the diabetes medicines (Actos and Glimiperide) are known to cause weight gain. I wish my doctor had mentioned that, so I could have monitored my weight more closely. I was also taking metformin 1000 mg twice daily December 2017 our family doctor started me on Green House Herbal Clinic Diabetes Disease Herbal mixture, 5 weeks into treatment I improved dramatically. At the end of the full treatment course, the disease is totally under control. No case blurred vision, frequent urination, or weakness
Visit Green House Herbal Clinic official website www. greenhouseherbalclinic .com. I am strong again and able to go about daily activities.‌ This is a breakthrough for all diabetes sufferers

Posted by: maryrouche | February 19, 2018 10:36 AM    Report this comment

Huge fan, have used it for years. But a month ago I began spraying it daily, diluted 50:50 in water on my dog and rubbing it into her coat. We are in flea and tick country (coastal Georgia, camping) and it is working against fleas and ticks! True, she does get a single flea at a time, which I am able to comb out. But in a month here, there have been a total of 6, only 6, and one tick on her chin (an area I hadn't been spraying). Believe me, that is fantastic after last year when I finally had to resort to chemicals to kill them off -- at one point she had more than 200 ticks and the fleas couldn't be counted! Highly recommended.

Comment originally posted by: Carolyn M | December 16, 2016

Posted by: JP_cosmo | January 4, 2018 1:26 PM    Report this comment

re:My daughter is my dog...September 15th, 2016.....and so 1tsp. per 20 lbs....hope she feels better soon.....add in her water..... put some in a spray bottle half vinegar and half with water....good for fur....and good for disinfectant.....and good for cleaning....:)...and good for fleas.....hope she feels better...

Comment originally posted by: dogsrock | October 13, 2016

Posted by: JP_cosmo | January 4, 2018 1:25 PM    Report this comment

OK one more ...ground pumpkin seeds and canned pumpkin seeds also helped. And don't use the cayanne until you read the following article. OK...I'm done now. ( Grin). yourolddog.com/cayenne-dogs-use-safely/

Comment originally posted by: Loveyurdog | September 7, 2016

Posted by: JP_cosmo | January 4, 2018 1:24 PM    Report this comment

I also forgot to mention rescue remedy for your pup's nerves.Not having a home she might need something calming for her system and that will improve her health . You can take it too! Helps us when we are in the middle of change.

Comment originally posted by: Loveyurdog | September 7, 2016

Posted by: JP_cosmo | January 4, 2018 1:22 PM    Report this comment

I am so sorry to : My dog is my daughter. I first just to let you know I am praying for you and your four legged daughter. I can not imagine not having a regular home and needing to care for a sick furry kid. Please do not overdo the Apple cider vinegar. More is not better. 1tsp for every 20 Pounds. Is it her food? Try not to do a bunch of things at once because you could overwhelm the system. Try the avc and then if she is OK with it see how it goes. Goldenseal can also be very helpful....but only use one capsule per day for a week and then lay off it for a week.Rotation is best. A pinch of ginger powder in her food might help her tummy.Just a pinch. Also cayanne pepper ( Less than a pinch) can help with the diarrhea. Don't try these all at once ....
Good luck and know you are in my prayers. Comment originally posted by: Loveyurdog | September 7, 2016

Posted by: JP_cosmo | January 4, 2018 1:21 PM    Report this comment

Morning ANIMAL LOVERS, I have an issue that I feel all of you can help me with. I RESCUED a 4mo. Old Beagle/Boxer Mix a lil over 8 yrs. Ago, I am PROUD to say after I got Piper I HAD THAT PUPPY MILL SO CALLED PET SHOP CLOSED FOR GOOD!! Anyway, my poor baby girl has another SEVERE UTI but, we have been POOR HOMELESS for a while which means NO MONEY, NO VET!! I can get REGULAR ACV YOGURT with my Food Stamps for everything I've read says THESE WILL WORK but, I have NO IDEA HOW MANY TABLESPOONS PER DAY to give her. She's between 55 - 58 lbs. So I know to give her 2 tablespoons at a time, I just want to know IF I SHOULD GIVE HER 4 PER DAY due to her weight?? She's in PAIN, HAVING ACCIDENTS ALL OVER THE CAR (OUR HOME), PEEING BLOOD I'M SO UPSET, She's My DAUGHTER, I can't have kids so SHE'S MY BABY!! Please if anyone can give me a DEFINITE ANSWER THAT WILL NOT HURT MY BABY, We'll be ETERNALLY GRATEFUL!!
With Many Thanx-
Florence, NJ Comment originally posted by: MyDogisMyDAUGHTER | September 5, 2016

Posted by: JP_cosmo | January 4, 2018 1:20 PM    Report this comment

I was awakened by my 14.75 year old toy poodle barking in pain at 5 a.m. on July 4th morning. It was apparent that he had a bladder infection following my witnessing the same yelping at 6 a.m. As vets were closed, and he would die if left at an emergency vet as he has severe separation anxiety following the death of my husband, I searched for holistic approaches and found AC. After 2 doses of the Apple cider vinegar, he urinated without pain and went back to his food. I highly would recommend ACV it was the Bragg brand, organic and unfiltered.
Comment originally posted by: Erica | July 5, 2016

Posted by: JP_cosmo | January 4, 2018 1:19 PM    Report this comment

One question: I've always read that although acidic, ACV (like lemons) causes an alkaline reaction in th body to make your body more alkaline. Sounds counterintuitive which is why it has always stood out to me. You mention in the article that it should only be used if your dog's system is too alkaline, which is opposite. Is it different for dogs than humans? Thanks for the great article!
Comment originally posted by: Mbdaniel | May 29, 2016

Posted by: JP_cosmo | January 4, 2018 1:18 PM    Report this comment

This is best news yet...thank you for saving my dogs life..how ever has issues with bladder stones got skin allergy waiting for surgry..Oct 28..is it OK to Give acv with this issue.. An having teeth extraction as well..she Chihuahua an jack r..14 yr..blood good little enlarged heart Dr seems very confident..

Posted by: Beauty | October 11, 2014

Posted by: JP_cosmo | January 4, 2018 10:54 AM    Report this comment

Thank you! This article gave me the answer is was looking for, and answers for other questions, or problems, that I was concerned about! I also appreciate the books, and authors, mentioned. I plan to add two more books to my reading list! I have a feeling my family, and I, will be visiting this site often!

Posted by: Boochild2001 | September 29, 2013

Posted by: jgigler@belvoir.com | January 4, 2018 10:45 AM    Report this comment

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