Can dogs eat stale bread or will it make them sick? Dogs are like walking trash cans when it comes to their appetite for food we’ve ruled out eating ourselves. I sometimes use my daughter’s leftover toast as high value training treats, and I can easily imagine several scenarios when you might also consider letting your dog eat the stale remnants of an old loaf. Or your pooch might have managed to snaffle it without your approval at all, of course! Occasionally eating stale bread won’t do your dog any harm, but letting it turn into a habit could contribute to health problems later. Here’s what you need to know about letting dogs eat stale bread, and how to make safe and sensible judgements about it.
- Is it safe for dogs to eat stale bread?
- The risks of letting dogs eat stale bread
- Are there any good reasons for feeding a dog stale bread?
- Occasions when stale bread must never be offered
Is it safe for dogs to eat stale bread?
3 in 5 of us admit to giving our dogs table scraps to eat. And bread is a longstanding staple in on our tables. So it’s a safe bet that most of us have considered sharing a sandwich or letting our dog ‘tidy up’ some crusts for us at some point. Or, as in the video above, returned to a sandwich to discover that the dog has already taken matters into their own jaws! In most cases, occasionally giving your dog day-old bread, or discovering they’ve stolen the remains of a baguette from the countertop or trash can is unlikely to result in any harm. White, wholemeal and sourdough breads are all non-toxic for your pup in modest quantities. But whilst stale bread is safe for consumption by dogs, it doesn’t have any nutritional value for them. Dogs are adapted to thrive on high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate meals. They have evolved a modest ability to digest starchy foods since they were domesticated. But not so much capacity that they can rely on bread as a significant part of their diet.
The risks of letting dogs eat stale bread
Stale bread seems like a pretty benign, if uninspiring, treat. But whilst plain breads without extra additions or toppings are usually edible for dogs, there are some good reasons to limit how often they have them:
- Stale bread is dry, and presents a choking hazard.
- Eating lots of low fiber, low protein snacks in addition to a full ration of nutritionally complete dog food will result in weight gain.
- Eating a lot of stale bread instead of a nutritionally complete dog food will result in malnutrition.
- Some research also indicates that eating ultra processed carbohydrates like white bread may increase the risk of your pup experiencing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in later life.
Out of these considerations, the biggest risk is the potential impact of bread on your dog’s waistline. Over half of dogs visiting veterinary clinics in 2018 were overweight, according to the veterinarians who examined them. Snacks like dry bread are a major culprit, because they are calorie dense but don’t do much to make your dog feel full. We owners don’t have a good record for accurately estimating the calorie content of the table scraps either. Nor accounting for them when we prepare our dogs’ usual meals. So your pup is likely to end up overeating, and gaining weight. Overweight dogs are:
- Less mobile and less social.
- More likely to have reduced quality of life.
- More likely to die prematurely.
- And more likely to experience urinary tract infections, suffer joint problems like hip dysplasia, or receive a cancer diagnosis.
The complications of caring for an overweight dog also put financial and emotional strain on their owners.
Are there any good reasons for feeding a dog stale bread?
I’ve already admitted to occasionally giving my dog stale bread anyway. So here’s why!
All dogs should consume a diet which is 90% nutritionally complete, such as an AAFCO approved kibble or pre-prepared raw diet. Foods outside of that diet should be limited to 10% of their daily intake, to protect their health and wellbeing. But it just makes sense that the foods your offer as part of that 10% should be high value treats, which you can use to boost your training. And it’s a rule of training that the dog decides what is rewarding! My dog particularly enjoys the crunch of toasted bread, so sometimes I take the dry slice at the end of a loaf, toast it, cut it up, and handfeed it to him in little squares while I clip his nails. On other occasions I’ll use more nutritious high value treats, like plain roast chicken, small flakes of fish, or raw carrot. So as you can see I only use bread as an occasional treat, and not a daily habit! Everything in moderation, as they say.
Occasions when stale bread should never be offered
Most of the time, letting your dog eat stale bread is not nutritionally beneficial, but not dangerous either. However, there are some circumstances in which your pooch should be kept away from those crusts altogether. Namely:
- If the bread is moldy. Some bread molds release mycotoxins, which can make your dog sick. If inhaled, the bread mold spores can cause breathing problems too. Like most fungi, the visible mold you see on the surface of bread is often just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t trim it off and let your dog eat the rest of the slice anyway. It is likely to be riddled with invisible strands of mold mycelium.
- When there are other toxic ingredients present. Breads containing raisins, macadamia nuts or garlic, are all toxic to dogs. As are some popular spreads, like grape jelly, chocolate spread, or peanut butter sweetened with xylitol. Other toast toppings, like butter, can be unsafe for consumption in specific cases, for example if your dog has pancreatitis and needs to follow a low fat diet.
- If your dog is allergic to wheat, or any of the other listed ingredients.
- If they are on a weight loss program. High carbohydrate, low fiber foods are not compatible with weight loss in dogs, because they’re dense in calories but not very filling.
- Or if your vet has advised against it, for any reason.
If your dog has eaten some stale bread, and any of these situations apply, contact your vet for advice immediately.
Can dogs eat stale bread – summary
Most dogs can eat stale bread without any ill-effect. But eating too much, too often, can interfere with consuming a balanced diet overall. Or it can result in a calorie surplus, and weight gain. Don’t let you dog eat bread at all (stale or otherwise) if it is moldy, contains toxic ingredients, or your vet has advised against it.
Do you have a story of a dog who managed to steal a bread feast? Share it with us in the comments box down below!