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Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Most dogs are just as happy to eat a scrap of bread as a scrap of steak. Bread’s sweet taste and fluffy texture are no less alluring than a bite of beef. Then again, our dogs will eat just about anything, right?
Baked bread is safe for dogs to eat, though it isn’t the most healthy treat to share with your pet. The carbs, calories, and sugar in bread contribute more to weight gain than nutritious eating.
Bread dough, on the other hand, is an entirely different story! It’s actually highly dangerous for dogs to eat bread dough.
If your dog gets ahold of your pizza dough or rising bread, it’s time to drop everything and make a beeline for the vet’s office. The problem lies in the yeast, which poses two major threats to a dog’s digestive system.
Yeast Can Cause Life-Threatening Bloat in Dogs
Yeast gives bread its fluffiness, lightness, and lift. It creates those luscious air bubbles in a baguette or a good loaf of sourdough. Yeast, of course, is a living organism (a member of the fungi family) that activates in moist, warm environments to transform carbohydrates into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
When a dog eats bread dough, it consumes the already activated yeast, which continue to flourish in the animal’s warm, moist stomach. This produces more and more carbon dioxide in the dog’s gut, causing the stomach to expand and bloat.
This extreme bloating has a medical term—Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV).
The gas created by yeast remains stuck in the dog’s stomach. For whatever reason, this gas doesn’t pass easily out of the body like most digestive gas, and instead causes expansion and pressure in the digestive system.
As the stomach expands, this can rupture the stomach lining, cause cardiovascular damage, and damage to the diaphragm. For this reason, it’s essential to get your dog to the vet quickly if he’s eaten raw bread dough. Even with treatment, approximately a quarter of dogs with GDV don’t survive.
Symptoms of GDV include:
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Shallow breathing or heavy panting
- Attempts to vomit
- Bloating of the abdomen
Yeast Can Cause Alcohol Poisoning in Pets
Yeast, of course, is also an essential part of the fermentation process used to make many of the alcoholic beverages we enjoy during happy hour. In addition to producing carbon dioxide, yeast also produces ethanol, which is what gives beer and other booze its alcohol content.
Just like humans, dogs can also experience alcohol poisoning. Also like humans, the effects of alcohol on the body depend on how much ethanol is ingested and whether it was consumed on an empty stomach or shortly after eating.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Slowed reflexes
- Weakness or staggering
- Attempts to vomit
- Hyperactivity and panting
Left untreated, alcohol poisoning can cause a dangerous reduction in heart rate, an increase in total body acid, or a heart attack, all of which can be deadly. For this reason, bread dough is actually a double-threat to our dogs.
How to Bake Safely With Pets in Your Home
The greatest vulnerability for bakers is the fact that dough needs to be left alone to rise, sometimes for several hours, which leaves plenty of time for dogs to plan and execute their sneaky snacking ploys.
Make sure you keep rising dough somewhere your dog absolutely can not reach. (Remember, dogs can be surprisingly stealthy!) Stay mindful of where your dog is and definitely check on her if you notice you haven’t heard her paws in awhile.
Because the digestion of yeast can truly be deadly, it’s worth it to take extra precautions. The same would apply for folks who brew their own beer at home. Make sure your dog is kept completely away from your brewing process, which is a good idea anyway if you want to make a clean batch!