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Ask the Vet: Help, My Dog Ate a Loaf of Bread!

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If your dog ate a loaf of bread, you may be wondering whether or not you should be worried. Here's the thing: when it comes to food choices, dogs are not very picky. In fact, they would eat anything they can get their teeth on. As for bread and dough, well…dogs love how they taste. However, just because our dogs enjoy eating something it does not mean that they should. While baked bread, as long as it is consumed in moderate amounts, is considered relatively safe, dough is prohibited for dogs and if consumed can have life-threatening effects.

Help, My Dog Ate a Loaf of Bread!

As stated, baked bread is generally safe for dogs. However, depending on the consumed amount and the dog’s body weight, dogs that ate too much baked bread can develop a so-called gluttony bloat. Gluttony bloat in dogs occurs due to overeating and manifests with visibly distended abdomen. The condition is generally not life-threatening per se, but it is highly uncomfortable.

The type of bread ingested by the dog is also important. Namely, wheat bread and white bread are safe for dogs as long as the dog is not gluten intolerant.

On the other hand, unbaked bread or dough is extremely dangerous. This is because the yeast in the bread, once in the dog’s stomach, will start rising (similarly as it would rise in the oven).

If your dog ate bread, there are three important things that need to be considered: 1) The ingredients the bread contains, 2) Is it just the bread the dogate or did the dog eat the wrapping as well? and 3) did the dog ingest dough?

Bread Containing Harmful Ingredients

Certain types of bread contain toxic ingredients that dogs must not consume. The most frequently seen toxic ingredients include the following.

Nuts and seeds – in addition of having health benefits for humans, these ingredients improve the bread’s taste. However, dogs are not allowed to consume them. Several types of nuts and seeds are classified as highly dangerous when it comes to dogs. Even the types that are classified as safe, if consumed in larger amounts, can cause stomach upset followed by profuse diarrhea and vomiting. On the long run, because of their high fat content they can also cause pancreatitis (painful and dangerous inflammation of the pancreas).

Raisins – this highly toxic ingredient is found in many sweet breads and baked goods. Raisins are not equally dangerous for all dogs. Namely some dogs can tolerate them well while in others their consumption may lead to life-threatening consequences.

Garlic – many breads are baked goods and are therefore seasoned with garlic powder or contain finely chopped fresh garlic cloves. Regardless of the unusual smell, dogs are drawn to garlic. However, eating garlic (whether fresh or powdered) can potentially lead to medical issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness and lethargy. In more extreme cases, the consequences can be lethal.

Xylitol – the popularity of this artificial sweetener is on the rise. In the past it could only be found in sugar-free chewing gums. Sadly, today it can be found in many commercially available baked goods. The xylitol is highly toxic to dogs.

If you intentionally give bread or other baked goods to your dog, it is highly advisable to carefully check the ingredients list. If the product contains some of the above mentioned ingredients, do not give it to your dog.

Help My Dog Ate Bread and Its Wrapping!

Ingesting the wrapping (either plastic or paper) can cause foreign body obstruction. This potentially life-threatening condition is acute and requires immediate veterinary attention. More often than not, the problem can only be solved through surgery. The surgical procedure is not dangerous on its own, but the recovery period is hard, long and often complicated.

On the more positive side, the dog may throw up the wrapping. If the wrapping was ingested no more than 2 hours ago, with your vet’s approval you can try to induce vomiting.

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Help, My Dog Ate Bread Dough!

We all know that in warm, moist and draft-free environment, dough rises. The dog’s stomach offers those exact environmental factors. Therefore, if a dog consumes dough, once it reaches the stomach, it will start rising.

The rising of the dough is due to its yeast content. Sadly, once the dough starts to rise it will continue to do so. At one point, the rise will be so significant that it will start to distend the stomach. Additionally, as the rising dough is processed in the stomach, it releases a by-product named ethanol. The amount of ethanol rises as the dough rises and eventually its level becomes toxic. Then the ethanol enters the dog’s bloodstream.

In a nutshell, the immediate danger related to eating dough is the obvious bloat. However, the real and underlying danger is alcohol poisoning.

Dogs with alcohol poisoning will exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  • Distended abdomen
  • Depression of the central nervous system
  • Low blood pressure
  • General weakness
  • Retching and unproductive vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Overall lethargy and depression
  • Drunken or unsteady gait
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Hypothermia
  • Coma

At The Vet's Office

In most cases, the dog owner is aware that the dog ate unbaked bread dough. In cases when the owner is not aware, based on the clinical picture, the vet will suggest a blood test to determine the alcohol levels. The presence of alcohol is enough to set the diagnosis.

The first step is to eliminate the poison by inducing vomiting. Administering cold drinking water is also a good idea because it breaks up the yeast and prevents further expansion.

The second step is intravenous fluid therapy. The goal is to dilute the alcohol in the bloodstream and consequently to decrease the intensity of the clinical signs. In some cases, it is possible for a lump of bread to remain inside the stomach. The lump has to be removed and sometimes that requires surgical approach.

Complete recovery can be expected in dogs that were treated promptly and appropriately. The prognosis is also good for dogs that ate small amounts of bread dough and dogs that managed to vomit before the yeast started fermenting.

If left untreated, the condition will progress and result in irreversible brain damage or death.

About the Author

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.

ivana crnec

She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.

Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.

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