Can I Give My Dog Bread?
There are few foods less threatening than bread. Even if you restrict yourself to low-carb, vegan, gluten-free, or organic foods, you probably eat bread in some form or another at least a couple times a week—it’s almost impossible not to! Bread can worm its way into any meal at any time of year. From sweet dessert breads, to seed-heavy dinner rolls, all the way to the nutritionally empty monstrosity that is white sandwich bread, most people eat bread fairly regularly without a second thought. It is an easy food to entice picky eaters with. It is a gentle, bland food that many of us can stomach when we feel sick and nauseous. Bread is the one thing all of mankind has in common. But what about man’s best friend?
Can dogs have bread? Are there certain types of bread that are safe for dogs, or should it be off limits altogether?
Good news: Dogs can eat bread. Though most store-bought bread is not going to greatly improve your dog’s health, it probably will not hurt them, either. Most bread is mild enough that dogs can gobble it up without suffering from an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. Our canine companions tend to love bread just as much as we do, too—if you leave your sandwich supplies sitting out, you may come back to find that your dog has greedily inhaled half a loaf of the stuff.
Are there any benefits to feeding your dog bread? From a nutritional perspective, not really. Even as it pertains to human nutrition, bread is not renowned for its vitamin and mineral content. Most store-bought bread is fairly low in micro-nutrients. Healthier bread brands made with whole wheat, nuts and seeds, may offer more nutrition—these brands are often higher in protein, iron, magnesium, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Whole grain breads also contain more fiber, which may be one of the biggest potential health benefits.
High-fiber bread may benefit your dog’s health in a couple ways. Firstly, fiber regulates the digestive system—it is one of the few things that can help alleviate both constipation and diarrhea! Why? Because of the two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water in the gut, which turns it into a slippery, more gelatinous substance that may help ‘lubricate’ large or hardened stool, accelerating its passage through the intestines. Soluble fiber may also absorb excess water in the colon, making stool less runny. Insoluble fiber serves to ‘bulk up’ stool, making for firmer, fuller, more frequent bowel movements.
Bread may be beneficial for a dog who is dealing with an upset stomach, too. If your dog seems to be struggling with indigestion, or if your dog has a stomach which feels ‘off’ due to a bug, anxiety, or any other stressor, giving them a small serving of bread may help to settle their stomach and get some nutrition on board. This is not a long-term solution for any chronic stomach issue, but it is a good option when your dog is feeling just a little bit under the weather. Don’t make a habit of using bread to get calories into your dog’s body, though—while bread is full of energy, it is very low in all of the vitamins and minerals your dog needs to maintain health. A diet made up of mostly empty calories is a recipe for nutrient deficiency and obesity!
Things to Keep in Mind
But, even though most store-bought breads pose no immediate health threat to your dog (bread is not poisonous!), owners should be careful feeding this indulgence to their pets. While bread is generally easy on the stomach, if your dog is allergic to wheat, exactly the opposite is true—they will not be able to digest it, which results in nausea, bloat, vomiting, or diarrhea. In addition, avoid any bread that contains ingredients that may be toxic to your dog. This includes raisins, artificial sweeteners like xylitol, chocolate chips, onions, garlic, walnuts, and macadamia nuts. If possible, opt for brands that are lower in salt and higher in fiber. White, heavily processed breads are less healthy for your dog than 100% whole grain varieties.
In sum, most bread is safe for your dog when given as a rare treat or an ‘easy on the tummy’ option. Dogs are not likely to reap many nutritional benefits from bread, but it is generally recognized as a healthy alternative to higher fat, higher calorie treats. If you make the decision to feed your dog bread, make sure you examine the ingredients closely—some breads, particularly dessert breads, contain ingredients that can be extremely toxic to dogs. And, as with all things, go for the healthiest options possible! You and your dog will both benefit from opting for whole grain, low sugar, low sodium options. Just remember: moderation is key!