By: Dr. Juli G., DVM
Bread is a popular food staple and a household favorite for many. Whether you are a sandwich addict, a pizza lover, or prefer your morning toast with coffee, countless meals, treats, and desserts are based around bread as the main ingredient. Many people also reach for bread to soothe an upset stomach or for a quick snack. If your dog is also your favorite shadow, they likely have acquired a taste for bread or begged you for a bite of your delicious sandwich.
But should you be giving your pup a piece of bread, and it is safe for dogs? The short answer is this: giving your dog some bread for an occasional treat is usually safe. But there are various reasons and instances when you should not feed your dog bread. Sometimes, bread can be deadly for dogs or lead to health problems.
Is Bread Safe for Dogs?
In most cases, giving your dog a small amount of plain white, rye, or wheat bread is safe and will not cause them any problems. In some cases, your veterinarian may even advise you to give your dog bread for certain conditions, like following ingestion of a foreign object, or to trick your pup into taking their medication. Bread can also be a high-value training treat and a way to bond with your dog over your love of the delicious carbohydrate.
Bread should only be given in small pieces as an occasional treat because it is high in calories and carbs, which convert to sugar in your dog's body. Generally, treats, including bread, should not compose more than 10% of a dog's daily calorie requirements. Bread has no nutritional benefits for dogs fed a complete and balanced diet and can lead to weight gain, obesity, or diabetes in your pup. With over 50% of U.S. dogs being overweight or obese, ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight is critical. Overweight dogs have an increased risk for various health problems, including osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and some cancers.
Types of Bread That Are Safe for Dogs
Whether you're giving your dog bread as a special treat or attempting to trick them into taking their monthly oral heartworm medication, it's critical to check the ingredient list to ensure it is dog safe. Although rare, some dogs may have a gluten or wheat allergy, so only offer a small amount when giving your dog bread to gauge if they tolerate the ingredients.
Additionally, feeding too much bread can lead to bloated stomach or gastrointestinal(GI) problems, like diarrhea, so moderation is key with any dog food or treat. Always check with your veterinarian before offering your dog a new treat or food to ensure it does not counteract any current health conditions or medications.
However, as a general rule, the following kinds of bread are safest for dogs:
- Plain white bread that is unseasoned and does not have any butter, jam, or toppings (toasted is ok)
- Plain whole wheat bread that is unseasoned and does not contain any nuts, seeds, additives, or toppings
- Seedless rye bread
- Sourdough bread
- Plain unseasoned crust of any bread or pizza (ensure there is no garlic added to the bread)
- Plain, unseasoned, unflavored bagel
- Homemade bread with dog-safe ingredients. Always check with your veterinarian or the ASPCA toxic food list before making an at-home recipe. Never let your dog lick the bowl when making raw bread or food.
Types of Bread That Are Dangerous for Dogs
It may be tempting to give your dog a bite of your favorite turkey sandwich or buttered bagel, but giving your dog treats with added fats or flavors can lead to GI illness or pancreatitis, in some cases, which can be deadly. Butter, mayonnaise, and other sauces are rich and fatty, making it difficult for dogs to digest. Some bread ingredients and spices can be toxic to dogs, so always read the label before offering your pup any bread.
Avoid feeding your dog these types of bread:
- Raisin bread. Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs; for some breeds, just a few grapes can be deadly. Dogs who ingest raisins are at risk for GI distress and kidney failure. Most raisin bread also contains added sugars and fats, which can lead to GI upset.
- Garlic bread. Dogs should never eat garlic or any member of the allium family. Garlic can cause vomiting and destroy red blood cells, causing dangerous anemia.
- Nut and seed bread. Some nuts, like macadamia nuts, black walnuts, and pecans, are toxic to dogs and lead to GI problems, including pancreatitis. Nuts and seeds can also put your dog at risk for blockages and stomach lining irritation.
- Dessert bread. Sweet rolls or bread, like banana bread, often contain cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, sugar, or sugar substitutes, like xylitol. These toxic ingredients can cause a variety of problems, including GI distress. Xylitol can also cause your dog's blood sugar to become dangerously low, which can be fatal. Also, never feed your dog a bite of your PB&J because many types of peanut butter contain xylitol, and grape jams or jellies are equally toxic.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Bread Dough?
Raw bread dough should never be given to a dog because yeast fermentation can cause stomach distention and release toxic levels of ethanol into the bloodstream. Increased pressure in your dog’s stomach can lead to bloat or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), which requires emergency veterinary care and surgery.
Immediately call your veterinarian if your dog eats raw yeast bread dough. Dogs with alcohol toxicosis will have signs similar to those who have drunk too much, including depression, lethargy, unsteady gait, low body temperature, and seizures.
Bread Alternatives for Dogs
It's not uncommon for people to eat a piece of toast after experiencing an upset stomach. However, plain bread or toast does not have nutritional value or calming effects on your dog's digestive system. If your veterinarian advises a bland diet, you can make one with the ingredients listed here. Additionally, dogs who have recently experienced diarrhea or an upset stomach may benefit from a probiotic supplement to help rebalance their gut flora. Adding fiber to your dog's diet, such as with pumpkin powder, can also help to firm loose stools.
Because treats are an essential part of bonding with your pup, consider trying these nutritious bread-free options:
- Homemade baked training treats with dog-safe ingredients
- Frozen popsicles or ice cubes made with Bone Broth
- Fresh, unseasoned vegetables, like green beans or carrots
- Xylitol-free peanut butter, try placing it in a puzzle toy for added mental fitness
Small amounts of plain wheat or white bread are generally ok to feed your dog as the occasional treat. However, paying attention to the ingredients is critical to prevent your dog from ingesting something toxic. Bread does not have health benefits for dogs, so choose a healthier, more nutritious treat to show your dog love.
For more information and tips on your dog's health, check out the Native Pet blog.