When “Superfoods” May Not Be So Super: Bone Broth, Probiotics, Kefir, Fermented Foods, Canned Sardines & More… Are Popular Superfoods & Supplements Making Your Dog or Cat’s Symptoms Worse?

One of my most favorite people in the whole world and long-time SFRAW member has been struggling on/off with chronic yeast and skin issues in her dog for some time now.  She’s “tried everything”…of course, she feeds raw, and she’s gone through challenging elimination diet trials, switching to novel proteins, and her dog has always been loaded up on all the “good” superfoods such as probiotics & kefir (the most expensive, best ones she could find!) She’s consulted with some of the top veterinary specialists, and has recently, regrettably, resorted to antibiotics/conventional treatments to control the serious symptoms her dog was experiencing. She has done her level, very best to responsibly do whatever was needed to address her dog’s chronic imbalance, and yet — it’s not resolved and continues to be frustrating for all involved.

Situations like this can be so hard, especially when someone loves and cherishes their animal so very much, have the resources available to do whatever they can t help, and would seriously go to the ends of the earth for their animal’s well-being – yet, still not be able to achieve curing chronic health issues.

We had a quick chat the other night over the counter here at SFRAW, where I learned about some of what has been going on. 

She came in to buy the AnimalBiome DoggyBiome Fecal Microbiota capsules as she got approval from her dog’s veterinary specialist to try this therapy.  She also was encouraged by her follow-up conversation with the good scientists at AnimalBiome about the results they have had with other dogs similar to hers with UC Davis.

I thought this was an excellent idea and recommended she give it a try, but, when reviewing her other items at checkout — I then told her something very unexpected: that she really needed to STOP giving the other probiotics (yes, even the good ones!), kefir and any other “beneficial bacteria” type foods or supplements while giving the AnimalBiome product. This is because the bacteria in the other products/sources may very well compete with, damage, or hinder the colonization and/or action of the canine fecal microbiota microbes. These foods and supplements are contraindicated because they could interfere with the effectiveness of the DoggyBiome FMT treatment.

During our chat, I learned about her “loading her up” on all the “good” superfoods and probiotics, to no avail.  And, that despite these efforts, that it’s “only gotten worse”…

It was when she mentioned this that I immediately realized there was something she had not tried yet… and this was something I have seen a lot of lately, actually! Most pressing to me was the possibility of a histamine intolerance (watch the below videos for more detail); but also that her dog could very well be reactive to certain foods and supplements that produce/are high in glutamic acid or D-lactate (triggering d-lactic acidosis). 

Histamine Intolerance (ingesting cultured foods, probiotics and many superfoods) May Be The Cause

While histamine and d-lactate reactivity are not new issues and they are something I have been advising/cautioning about for some time (one of the reasons why, in 2016, I started carrying and recommending Custom Probiotics’ d-lactate free probiotic), it seems I’m seeing more of it lately. This may be due to the increased awareness of the importance of probiotics (more veterinarians are now recommending after antibiotics, for example) and fermented foods being much more popularized in the past few years that more dogs and cats are being fed these foods/supplements, and some of them will then experience this type of negative reaction.

A chronic yeasty or fungal ear or skin infections may be caused or exasperated by certain “healthy” fermented foods, “superfoods” like canned sardines, bone broth, kefir, yogurt and popular supplements, such as probiotics.

Her dog may actually be experiencing either a histamine reaction to these “good” foods and probiotic supplements, and/or has SIBO or some other type of undiagnosed microbe overgrowth that is, if not causing, exasperating, these symptoms!

Worse case, animals and humans can experience something called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) — which is a complicated situation requiring dietary changes, at a minimum. Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) is a condition with symptoms involving the skin, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurologic systems. Not much on this issue is being discussed in the veterinary community, unfortunately, from what I can gather at least — but within the functional and natural medicine realm, this is a topic of  interest that is becoming more widely discussed and researched – thankfully!  I think dogs (especially susceptible breeds such as Boxers, Bulldogs – of all types – “bully” breeds in general, such as APBT and mixes, Great Danes, Dobermans and Mastiffs) are at a much higher risk for developing histamine related diseases and mast cell disregulation/mast cell related illnesses – including Mast Cell Tumors – and I wish more was being done to research this in dogs from this perspective.

On a side note about getting a diagnosis: it’s my current position that getting a GI disease diagnosis – if done with a test that requires sedation, or any form of manually disturbing/upsetting the GI via probing, washing, biopsy, etc. is not necessarily important or at all required for this specific issue. As a non-veterinary professional, I think the risk of complications associated with these diagnostic tests can be much higher than the reward of a possible Dx, at least under these specific circumstances.

My reaction? I encouraged her to take her dog off ALL of those superfoods, ENTIRELY.  Truth is, I had to practically strong-arm her into letting these superfoods go. She seemed concerned to skeptical; she had learned so much about how important and beneficial these supplements/foods can be to maintain her dog’s health, this made it hard to let them go.

I explained that it was even possible all the “good” stuff she had been adding to her dog’s protocol may actually be causing or contributing to the problem.

Wait? What?!!

Yes, it’s true!  Probiotics, kefir, yogurt, fermented foods, are all considered outstanding superfoods and supplements that can really help your animal heal and get better, can help animals stay in balance. However, for some individuals, these superfoods (and others like bone broth, etc.) may actually be contraindicated and may even contribute to their symptoms by making them worse! Yikes!

How can probiotics cause a terrible skin/ear/yeast condition to get even worse?

How can kefir or fermented foods make your dog or cat sick?

How can bone broth or probiotics cause serious symptoms/hurt your pet?

How can this be?

Associated Reaction to D-lactate: Removing common triggering foods/supplements may help

D-lactate is a result of fermentation of probiotic bacteria in the digestive system. An excess of D-lactate in our system can produce digestive and neurological problems especially with people with Short Bowel Syndrome and autism; or in certain populations of people/animals with sensitivity to D-lactate. L. Plantarum and L. Acidophilus produce high D-lactate, for example. Custom Probiotics D-lactate free formula contains L. Salivarius, L. Rhamnosus, B. Bifidum, and B. Infantis, strains that do not produce D-lactate.

In many mammals, a related concern is D-lactic acid reactivity. We have learned more recently about D-lactate/D-lactic Acid reactivity and how this can be harmful for those with autisum, histamine reaction issues, and/or SIBO. D-lactic acid symptoms are common for those with gut issues; so, reducing the D-lactate load is very important for these individuals. Avoidance of probiotic supplements and fermented foods containing these strains is the first step to managing symptoms. Impaired mental status is a universal feature in D-lactic acidosis and common neurological symptoms may include:

  • Impaired motor coordination
  • Weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Aggressive or hostile behavior, agitation
  • Stupor, ataxia and gait disturbance
  • Nystagmus (involuntary eye movement)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Carbohydrate craving
  • Unhappiness and irritability
  • Headache, bruxism and opisthotonus
  • Hyperventilation and tachypnoea
  • Nausea or pallor

While you may or may not recognize, see or witness these symptoms in your dog or cat — when you have an animal that experiences histamine reactions to certain foods and supplements, eliminating many of the same foods and supplements is a good idea because you can eliminate the offending substance and ensure they will not also experience these additional symptoms. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if by simply by removing these foods or supplements, you could help your animal that is currently experiencing nausea, agitation/reactivity, aggression, grumpy behavior, ADD or ADHD-type behavior, or unexplained changes in mobility/gate?

Glutamate Sensitivity & Bone Broth

Some years ago, we learned about The Dark Side of Bone Broth – which explains how glutamic acid and glutamate sensitive individuals will suffer when fed bone broths, rather than experience all the reported healing benefits. Foods we might include in our dogs and cats’ natural diets including slowly cooked protein, pressure cooked protein, bone broth, dairy, and fermented foods can be problematic for individuals sensitive to glutamate. Symptoms of glutamate sensitivity can include:

  • headache
  • hives
  • skin flushing or itching
  • dry mouth, runny nose, sneezing or congestion
  • mild chest pain
  • flushing
  • numbness or burning, especially in and around the mouth
  • facial pressure or swelling
  • sweating/panting
  • nausea
  • digestive upset
  • depression and mood swings
  • fatigue
  • swelling in your hands or feet
  • muscle, joint, or back pain

More serious symptoms may include:

  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling in the throat
  • anaphylaxis

These symptoms normally occur because of either a reaction to the glutamine content (a glutamic acid sensitivity) or the histamine content (a histamine intolerance) in bone broth and are a signal that the body is overloaded with one or both of these substances.

Eliminating certain foods that may be problematic for these individuals is an easy way to make a change towards improving their health and reducing symptoms. Foods that naturally contain free glutamate include:

  • Bone Broth
  • Meat cooked over moist heat for long periods of time
  • Cured meats: bacon, ham
  • Matured Cheeses: Parmesan, Roquefort
  • Fish sauce, Soy sauce, soy protein
  • Mushrooms
  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Walnuts
  • Grape juice (wine)
  • Malted Barley (used to make beer)
  • Wheat gluten
  • Dairy casein (milk protein)
  • Foods containing man-made MSG

While a lot of the research is geared towards human health, with tests in humans and rats, and not dogs & cats — and some of these findings are a new, emerging area of interest, I think that there’s enough research to consider this for our dogs and cats it certainly doesn’t hurt to do an elimination trial for your animal — in this case (and in so many other cases IMO!) less may be more…

How far you go down the rabbit hole and into the weeds on these issues is up to you – I’m a bit obsessed, so I’m learning something about this pretty much every single day right now — so much awesome research and analysis and information coming out. It’s exciting from my perspective and I do my best to share what I learn and apply it towards improving the products we offer at SFRAW as well as food and supplement suggestions that I make to members.

Curate and Re-Evaluate Your “Extra” Foods/Superfoods and Supplements: Simplify the Menu/Protocol

How can you tell if your animal is a candidate for removing these foods or supplements from the diet?  Well, if your dog or cat is experiencing one or more of the above symptoms and they have been eating or enjoying fermented foods, taking probiotics, or eating certain “healthy” but possibly histamine/glutamine/d-lactacte producing or reactive foods (and we don’t even know how this all works just yet!) — change!  Simply remove these “extras” and supplements entirely from the diet and protocol. Don’t replace with another thing just yet…try focusing on just simple fresh or frozen raw meat/bone/organs for a period of time!  Give your dog or cat 6-8 weeks of removing these foods or supplements, at a minimum.

If things improve, then that’s GREAT! Continue to keep them away from these foods/supplements and then you may want to consider a different protocol such as AnimalBiome plus Restorflora (Saccharomyces Boulardii). You may also consider fasting, certain B vitamins and herbal remedies.  There are also a few probiotics that may be helpful — but proceed with caution! Try adding in one at a time and see how your animal responds. We like the d-lactate free for these animals best — but we also strongly recommend NO probiotics at all, at least for a period of time, just to allow the body to heal and readjust without the external influences of supplementation.

No Quick Fixes: Healing the Gut Takes Time

Medical professionals will tell you that it takes an average of 12-24 MONTHS for humans to repair their “leaky gut” or disbiosis (bacterial imbalances) when there is a serious gut integrity issue  — a few weeks of dietary changes and supplement withdrawal/elimination will give you an indication or what’s offensive and should be removed from your animal’s diet for now…but you still have a long journey ahead.  There is no quick fix.  But there IS a lot of new research and hope with emerging, new treatments such as those provided by AnimalBiome.  Regular, periodic therapeutic fasting or daily Intermittent Fasting (time controlled eating) with a clean, well-sourced natural whole foods diet, with these limitations in place as for problematic foods/supplements, can be very healing, indeed!

In addition to eliminating offensive and contraindicated foods and supplements, a clean, whole foods raw diet and fasting, there are some helpful herbs that may be of great service, as has been indicated by human research.  AFTER the initial elimination period, I’d suggest incorporating organic oregano leaf (masticated or pureed, can be combined with a little fresh garlic, for a more potent combination) or oil of oregano, slippery elm bark powder, marshmallow root powder and/or neem.  Other digestive herbs such as chamomile, dill, parsley, cumin, turmeric, and carrot seed may be useful. Because some of these herbs may cause reactions, try one herb at a time to see if it’s helps or hurts.

Sometimes, it’s true — less can be more! “Doing no harm” can sometimes mean doing far less, pulling back or even — gasp — “nothing”! Nothing is not actually what I mean, however, it may feel this way to those that like to take a lot of action and use a lot of tools to fix things. In my experience, however, by simply affording our animals the opportunity a simple menu of wholesome, clean well-sourced and handled fresh foods, a healthy lifestyle, and patience/time — their bodies can heal on their own, when given the chance.


While a healthy, whole foods diet is the foundation for overall health, there are several very important aspects to consider when looking at the lifestyle of your pet. A whole foods diet, combined with a healthy lifestyle, will help prevent of disease and foster true wellness. Below you can find our list of what we feel are the critical aspects of a healthy pet’s lifestyle:

  • Pure, Clean Water
  • Fresh, Whole Foods Diet
  • Daily Exercise, Play, Mental Stimulation, and Social Contact
  • Safe, Regular Exposure to the Outdoors (Earth/Flora/Nature/Sunshine)
  • Uncontaminated, Fresh Air
  • Avoiding Toxins and Chemicals
  • Love, Patience, and Gentle Handling
  • Behavior/Training: Thoughtful Management and Setting Them Up To Succeed
  • “Do No Harm” When Treating Health Imbalances
  • Celebrating (and allowing them to safely express) Their Innate/Natural Behaviors
  • Adequate, Uninterrupted Restful Sleep in a Warm, Dry, Comfortable Space
  • Minimize Stress: Generally Feeling Safe and Relaxed
  • Peaceful Home Environment
  • Regular Grooming
  • Clean Bedding, Home, and Garden

Trust me — accomplishing all of these goals and meeting these recommendations for a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis is not necessarily easy to do and may take quite a bit of effort. But, in my decades of experience in animal healing, these are the key factors that seriously can either elevate/promote or hinder/harm your animal’s health and longevity.

Remember: Your animal will clearly communicate to you through their reactions and responses to the different things you are feeding and giving to them to support their well-being.  Trust your animal — let them be involved as active participants. They will often choose the best therapies and foods to heal: fasting, temperature preferences, dietary preferences, self-selected supplements, having clear preferences or cravings for certain foods, herbs, etc. Let them guide you to provide the very best for their unique and changing needs along their healing journey. Have patience and trust in your animal’s innate vitality – you just might be amazed at what you can accomplish together.


7 thoughts on “When “Superfoods” May Not Be So Super: Bone Broth, Probiotics, Kefir, Fermented Foods, Canned Sardines & More… Are Popular Superfoods & Supplements Making Your Dog or Cat’s Symptoms Worse?

    • This is a safe culinary food herb that you can feed quite freely to your dog. Most dogs will “tell” you how much they’d like their meals “seasoned” by their interest in the food being offered. Does your dog have an interest in oregano when offered chopped up on a platter without anything else added? If so, sprinkle this onto their meals. Suggestion: add 1 teaspoon up to 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh oregano on your dog’s food, depending on the interest and tolerance of that individual dog. Simply feed/offer the minimal amount that your dog selects and asks for. 🙂