Apple Cider Vinegar for Dogs & Cats: What Are the Potential Dietary/Health Benefits & Risks?

June 28, 2021

There are a lot of bold claims circulating throughout the raw feeding & holistic animal care communities, speaking to the wondrous benefits of feeding/supplementing apple cider vinegar. I have seen everything from- ACV cures allergies, to ACV is the best all-natural product to maintain good oral hygiene...

I must admit, the thought of using vinegar, regardless of it being diluted, to CLEAN my dog's teeth, made me do a double-take (scuse me...what did you just say??).

Naturally, I wanted to understand where these claims came from and if they had any merit. So as usual, here we are...

This post aims to explore the potential dietary/health benefits, as well as, potential risks of supplementing apple cider vinegar within a dog or cat's diet. The studies attached in this article did not use canine or feline subjects, but rather, in vitro and in vivo mouse/rat models, as well as, humans. 

Given the similarities between mammals, the conclusions can be extrapolated, but not fully ascribed to canine and feline species.


Antioxidant and Neuroprotective Effects

In an experimental study on the development of Alzheimer’s disease in mouse models, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) was found to have “better antioxidant and neuroprotection potential as compared with Chrysin and Rivastigmine.” (Tripathi, 2020). 

ACV contains a high concentration of phenolic compounds which are the main contributors to its antioxidant characteristics. Antioxidant compounds help reduce the effects of ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) which are essentially unstable byproducts from biological reactions and can lead to damage of surrounding cells. 

Both in the in vitro and in vivo segments of this study, processes linked to oxidative stress from ROS were significantly reduced by ACV, “ACV produced more effective results in cell viability, tauopathy, amyloid aggregation, behavioral assessments, oxidative stress markers (SOD, GSH, MDA), and AChE activity. In the histopathological study, ACV protected neurons against degeneration.” 

What is most impressive with the results in this study is that Rivastigmine, an anti-Alzheimer’s drug, was outperformed by ACV as a neuroprotective agent, suggesting that ACV has promise as a therapeutic agent for treatment of the disease. 

Antibacterial Activity

The acidic component of apple cider vinegar is acetic acid, a weak acid with a pH of approximately 2.4 in a standard 1M solution. In comparison, water is neutral in pH at 7 and our stomach acid has a pH of 1.6. 

The acidity of apple cider vinegar creates a toxic environment for different species of bacteria, “ACV exhibits potent antibacterial activity against Gram positive and Gram negative bacterial strains. Whereas sensitivity compared to reference standard Ciprofloxacin is less. As far as the Gram negative organisms are concerned, ACV showed less activity against Salmonella paratyphi A.” (Saqib, 2017). 

Granted, these results are coming from an in vitro experiment where the petri dishes are treated with either compound topically and therefore we cannot extrapolate to systemic antibacterial effects in the body, the antibacterial effect of ACV as measured in several studies is significant. We can see this in another investigation testing ACV and brine vs. several strains of E. coli and concluding that “All strains survived for<10 min in apple cider vinegar (0.8 m acetic acid) and <1 h in brine (0.4 m acetic acid)” (Molina, 2004). 

Weight Loss and Digestion

In many rat and mouse model studies, acetic acid has been found to lead to weight loss in several ways. Notably, acetic acid has been shown to up-regulate a liver enzyme, AMPK, which in turn reduces the activation of glucose and fat producing mechanisms in the body:

“Sodium acetate, in the form of neutralized AcOH, directly activated AMPK and lowered the expression of genes such as for glucose-6-phosphatase and sterol regulatory element binding protein-1 in rat hepatocytes” (Sakakibara, 2006). 

Secondarily, acetic acid ingestion in these models demonstrated appetite reduction, reduced stomach emptying rates (aka digestion), and lowered insulin demand which all either directly or indirectly contribute to weight loss:

“We also show that acetate administration is associated with activation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase and changes in the expression profiles of regulatory neuropeptides that favour appetite suppression.” (Frost, 2014). 

More importantly, a large cohort study investigating weight loss of 155 obese Japanese subjects following ACV intake has demonstrated significant results in humans as well. 

“The subjects were randomly assigned to three groups of similar body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. During the 12-week treatment period, the subjects in each group ingested 500 ml daily of a beverage containing either 15 ml of vinegar (750 mg AcOH), 30ml of vinegar (1,500 mg AcOH), or 0 ml of vinegar (0 mg AcOH, placebo). Body weight, BMI, visceral fat area, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels were significantly lower in both vinegar intake groups than in the placebo group” (Kondo, 2009). 

Blood Lipid and Cardiovascular Regulation

Another health benefit of apple cider vinegar that has been investigated to date is its ability to treat high lipid/fat levels in the bloodstream, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases such as buildup of fats/cholesterol inside of arteries (otherwise known as atherosclerosis). The following is the abstract from a 2012 study investigating this relationship:

“This quasi-experiment study (time series design) was carried out on 19 patients with hyperlipidemia. The subjects had been referred to a cardiologist and agreed to consume apple cider vinegar. At baseline, blood samples were obtained to measure cholesterol, triglyceride, low density lipoprotein (LDL), and high density lipoprotein (HDL). The tests were repeated at two, four, and eight weeks of vinegar consumption. The results were analyzed using repeated measurement analysis. There were significant reduction in the serum levels of total cholesterol (p < 0.001), triglyceride (p = 0.020), and LDL (p = 0.001) after eight weeks of consuming apple cider vinegar and with an increased HDL levels but the trend was not statistically significant (p = 0.200). Consumption of apple cider vinegar over a 8 week period had a beneficial effect in significant reductions in harmful blood lipids and is recommended as a simple and cost-effective treatment for hyperlipidemia” (Beheshti, 2012). 

While the conventional treatment of clinically diagnosed hyperlipidemia is the daily use of a statin drug, results are suggestive that apple cider vinegar could be used as a preventative dietary supplement against cardiovascular disease.

Dental and Bone Health Risks

Despite the several health benefits linked to apple cider vinegar use, there are also risks associated with exposure to acetic acid.

Enamel erosion linked to acetic acid exposure has been seen in individuals on a regimen of daily ACV intake. 

A 2012 case study on a 15 year old Moroccan girl revealed that, “After an anamnesis, extensive analysis of possible risk factors and a study of the pattern of erosion, it was concluded that the erosive tooth wear was induced by daily consumption of a glass of apple cider vinegar” (Gambon, 2012). 

Studies investigating enamel decay from exposure to acids in general are widely available as it is a common area of interest. After all, the main reason why we brush our teeth is to remove plaque consisting of bacteria that is essentially eating sugar/carbohydrate residues off our enamel and in turn secreting acidic byproduct. This acid byproduct is what leads to cavity formation as the enamel breaks down. 

Another health risk, albeit more uncommon, of excessive apple cider vinegar intake is that it can lead to reduced potassium levels in the blood and potential loss of bone density

Potassium is an important component of blood chemistry and is used to balance water retention in the kidneys. Losing the appropriate balance of Potassium and Sodium ions in the kidneys can disrupt function of the kidneys. 

In 1998, a 28-year old woman was admitted to a hospital in Austria with this condition after excessive daily cider vinegar intake over a 6 year span. The chronic disruption in her blood buffer system with high acidic loads led to reduced bone-building activity, “Our patient had low levels of osteocalcin, a finding attributable to acid buffering by bone. Her bone mineral density was drastically reduced and in the osteoporotic range” (Lhotta, 1998). 

Does feeding apple cider vinegar help to balance the internal pH of your pet?

Dogs have no need for pH control from their diet since the blood has its own buffer system that maintains a balanced pH level at all times. If anything, introducing large amounts of acid when ingesting too much apple cider vinegar can cause a significant acid load, potentially leading to metabolic acidosis. As I have previously discussed in one of my posts, internal pH in a normal dog is well regulated and does not need to be managed.

Should I apply apple cider vinegar to yeasty areas on my pet's body?

I have found an adjustment in the pet's diet to be one of the most effective ways to combat yeast overgrowth in dogs. A reduction or complete elimination of carbohydrates in the diet can have a significant impact on the continued development of yeast. 

Sometimes environment allergies can also play a major role in your pet's sudden yeasty paws (this was the case for my adult dog). In this instance, keeping his paws dry and booted up on all outdoor trips has made a world of a difference. 

When it comes to diluting apple cider vinegar and applying it to your pet's yeasty body parts, this is something I strongly advise you seek professional guidance for. By professional, I mean your veterinarian. Some holistic vets seem to be for this diy solution, others strongly advise against it!

While ACV can be an effective disinfectant for around your home, I would be very cautious and honestly, hesitant, to apply it to my pet's skin. Even diluted, apple cider vinegar can corrode human skin, which can result in permanent chemical scarring (this is something I have seen countless times on young patients trying to use it as a "spot treatment").

So simple answer...regardless of what Instagram accounts say, I would NOT.

If I add a tiny amount to my dog or cat's food bowl or water bowl, will that damage their teeth?

Because of how damaging acetic acid is to enamel, this is not a risk I would be willing to take. 

I know many people may be fortunate enough to not notice any negative changes to their pet's teeth/enamel, but just as many people have also experienced having to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills after the acetic acid in ACV wrecked havoc on their pet's teeth. 

Regardless of it being diluted, or just being a very small amount, I cannot bring myself to offer apple cider vinegar to my dogs. 

We, as human beings, are able to dilute things like apple cider vinegar and use straws to avoid completely coating our teeth in acid, if we choose to consume ACV. We are also able to immediately tell when there may be an issue because we can experience tooth sensitivity and communicate this or maybe our dentist spots the problem on a routine visit. We are also (hopefully) all brushing our teeth more than once a day, every single day...and IF we needed to, there are endless dental procedures that could be done to either restore our teeth or protect our enamel from further damage.

I don't know about you, but I've never seen a dog with veneers...

Does apple cider vinegar help regulate my dog or cat's digestion?

Well that depends on how you define "regulate."

A healthy animal does not need intervention to control their digestion and it's also normal for various foods to digest at different rates. As previously mentioned in this post, acetic acid ingestion demonstrated a reduction in stomach emptying rates.

If your pet is having a difficult time digesting certain foods, introducing digestive enzymes with their meals may be beneficial.

Should I feed apple cider vinegar to my dog or cat if they need to lose weight?

If your dog or cat is overweight, but otherwise in good health, the best course of action would be to increase daily physical activity- exercise. If they are over-consuming calories on a daily basis, then a slow reduction in the overall daily caloric intake will also be beneficial. Once the overweight dog or cat hits their target weight, you can maintain the amount of calories being fed daily or adjust the caloric intake based on activity level.

I would never rely on a product, natural or not, to help my dog or cat gain and/or lose weight, unless directed to do so by a licensed veterinarian.


Please consult physicians/veterinarians, and/or other trustworthy science-based sources for advice on human and animal dietary questions.

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