We love bread. But studies say we shouldn’t eat too much of it – which is hard for us carb lovers, who don’t want to give it up. Have you ever wondered if bread is a healthy snack for your dog?
The quick answer is: yes, plain bread with no added ingredients is not toxic to dogs. However, it offers them no nutritional value. Because of that, we should think of bread as an occasional treat instead of a diet staple.
That being said, there are some situations where bread can be very toxic for your dog. Let’s dive into all the information you need to keep your dog safe and away from the dangers that some breads can pose.
The benefits of bread
Bread has been part of our daily lives for over 10,000 years. In fact, there’s no country in the world where bread is not a part of their culinary traditions. Its use has signified wealth and peace – and it’s even included in many religious practices.
We’ve found it buried with mummified remains, and it’s been used to feed the masses for survival. But the bread we eat today has come a long way from the ground grains of ancient history. Nonetheless, it’s still a main staple in our diets.
Today, we eat pizza crust, bagels, croissants, tea breads, whole-grain breads, and simplified white breads, to name a few. Their nutritional value depends on the ingredients, but for dogs, bread has no nutritional value (apart from the unbridled joy they feel when we share our food with them).
Even so, there are some benefits to offering your dog bread. Here’s a rundown on the benefits your dog may enjoy by eating a small bit of bread.
It soothes an upset stomach
Dogs with IBS or an upset stomach can have a small amount of white bread. The high starch content absorbs the gastric acids irritating their stomachs, giving these dogs relief from pain and discomfort. One-quarter of a standard slice is enough to relieve the symptoms, but you should ask your vet for guidance on portion size.
It pads indigestible foreign objects
Bread binds or pads swallowed foreign objects like sharp bits of bone – or indigestible objects – enabling them to pass through the digestive tract. This is not true for all foreign objects or shards of bone, but bread can help your dog digest small pieces. Always check with your veterinarian for advice on using bread in this way.
It relieves constipation
The fiber in whole-wheat bread helps the digestive tract keep everything moving. It binds with water and adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass.
What you need to know about bread and dogs
Vets don’t consider most bread toxic to dogs. The trouble for your pooch lies in the ingredients, toppings, and form in which it’s consumed.
Dogs require high-protein diets. They’re facultative carnivores (some consider them omnivores), which means they can digest plants and proteins as long as protein is the principal ingredient in their daily diet.
As dogs evolved from their ancestors, their digestive systems barely changed. Their bodies still require high protein, low fat and carbs, and very few grains.
When excess carbs turn to sugar
When the ancestors of modern dogs consumed excess carbohydrates and fats, their bodies stored them for energy use when food wasn’t plentiful. In domestic dogs, those excess carbs get stored too. But since our dogs get regular meals, those carbs build up, causing weight gain.
Bread is a high-carbohydrate food. Its carbs turn to sugar (energy) in the body. If you feed your dog balanced dog food and healthy dog treats and give them enough exercise, there’s no need to feed them bread as a treat or as a regular part of your dog’s diet.
Wheat allergies and gluten
Wheat bread contains gluten, which many dog parents try to avoid. Some dogs can have an allergic reaction to wheat, although vets consider wheat bread to be a healthier option for your dog. If your dog is allergic to wheat, you can offer them bread made with rice or coconut flour.
Too much bread can lead to weight gain
White bread can relieve stomach pain or bind to foreign objects. But eating too much can cause weight gain, which can lead to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and joint pain.
Bread and tooth decay
The sugars in bread can cause havoc with your dog’s teeth because they adhere to the teeth and gums. The sugars attract bacteria to the teeth, creating tooth decay. As the decay advances, it becomes a periodontal disease. Veterinarians and studies have proven that most dogs have dental disease by the age of three.
Some bread can harm your dog
While most bread is not harmful to your dog, some types of bread have toxic ingredients that are definitely harmful. Let’s look at those now.
Imagine you’re making white bread at home and your dog eats some of the dough. You’d think since the ingredients are ok, the stolen gobble would be too – but that’s not the case. Most of the ingredients may be harmless, but the yeast is not.
As the dough mass expands, it distends your dog’s stomach. This can cause vascular distention and compromise the blood supply in the walls of the stomach. This condition also causes respiratory problems.
While this distention is happening, your dog’s stomach will also create ethanol. Ethanol in the stomach is alcohol, and we call this condition ethanol or alcohol toxicosis.
Symptoms of ethanol toxicosis include:
- Extended or bloated stomach with gassiness or unproductive vomiting
- Loss of bladder control and coordination
- Behavior changes, such as random barking or strange vocalizations
Because of this, it’s a medical emergency when a dog ingests bread dough. Your dog could show symptoms within 30 minutes, but they can take up to 2 hours to appear. If your dog’s ethanol level keeps rising, cardiac arrest can happen and be fatal. See your vet right away if your dog ate bread dough containing yeast.
It’s best practice to consult your veterinarian before you add new foods to your dog’s diet. Dogs have different digestive systems than humans do, and you never know if they’ll have an allergic reaction, or if the new food could interact with your dog’s specific health issues or medications.
Bread with garlic and onions
Wonderful smells come from garlic bread, and what dog doesn’t give you the puppy eyes and beg for a taste of your slice? Though onions and garlic are toxic to dogs, a small “complimentary” bite is not enough to cause chaos in your dog’s body. They’d need to ingest enough for the toxins in onions and garlic to build up in their body, causing serious trouble for your four-legger.
Garlic and onions are members of the allium plant family. They contain an organic compound called n-propyl disulfide, which causes oxidative damage to red blood cells and leads to hemolytic anemia. This is a dangerous illness that requires emergency vet care right away to avoid kidney failure or death.
All vegetables from the allium family are bad for dogs. Onion and garlic powder or juice are even more toxic because of their high concentration of toxins. Don’t offer your dog any bread that contains these ingredients.
Bananas are healthy for your dog, but the sugars and fats we add to make banana bread tasty are not. Added sugars can lead to tooth decay, diabetes, and weight gain. If you only offer banana bread in tiny amounts, your dog will appreciate it.
Grapes and raisins are very toxic to dogs. Studies on this fruit have not proven why they’re so toxic, but we know there’s no safe amount for your dog. Some dogs can eat a raisin or grape or two and be fine, while others can develop acute kidney failure after eating just one grape.
For this reason, bread containing raisins is not healthy for your dog, and may even harm them.
Nuts and bread
Bread containing peanuts or roasted cashews is fine for dogs to eat, but they can’t eat every type of nut. Any bread containing black walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pecans, and almonds can cause acute pancreatitis, requiring immediate vet care.
Chocolate and bread
Your dog can not have chocolate. Chocolate has theobromine, which affects their central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system. A dog suffering the effects of theobromine needs emergency vet care as soon as possible.
Bread labeled sugar-free may include an artificial sweetener called xylitol. We also find xylitol in some peanut butter. This sweetener is extremely toxic to dogs. Even a tiny amount can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, or death. Any food product containing artificial sweeteners can threaten your dog’s health.
Can Your Dog Eat Bread?
Yes. The short answer is that sharing a crust of your toast or a piece of your sandwich won’t hurt your dog. Just be aware that bread is a human food with no health benefits or nutritional value for your tail-wagger’s balanced diet. Offering it as an occasional treat with no harmful ingredients is fine, and your pup will happily share your food. Just remember that anything more than a small amount can affect your dog’s overall health.