Can Dogs Eat Oatmeal?
Pet owners love their four-legged friends so much that they want to include them in every aspect of their lives. From road trips and dips in the ocean to buying them a matching sweater, your dog is your favorite companion. However, when it comes to meal time, your pup shouldn't always have the same foods you do. In the morning as you're preparing breakfast, you may wonder, "Can dogs eat oatmeal?" After all, oats are a key ingredient in plenty of canine treats and food, so why not?
Here, we spoke with experts to find out if our beloved Fido can have a bite of our morning delight:
Is Oatmeal Good or Bad For Dogs?
Oatmeal is one of those "human" meals that isn't so bad for dogs, according to Megan McCarthy, DVM, of Best Friends Animal Society. She says it's fine for pups in moderation because it contains healthy nutrients like fiber, vitamin B, and omega fatty acids. "These nutrients can help keep dogs' coats healthy and can provide a carbohydrate source for dogs that are sensitive to wheat or grains," she continues. "The fiber content of oatmeal can help regulate bowel movements and blood sugar."
How Much Oatmeal Can Dogs Safely Eat?
While oatmeal isn't bad for dogs, too much of a good thing can still wreak havoc on your pup's diet. That's why moderation is everything, says Danielle Bernal, DVM with Wellness Pet Company. When pet parents add food to their dog's diet, they need to ensure that the bulk of their nutrition is provided by high-quality, complete, balanced food. "In an ideal composition, complete and balanced tailored nutrition—in any form such as wet or dry—should make up 90 percent of their total nutrition," she says. "Added bowl boosters or toppers such as adding oatmeal should proportionally represent just 10 percent of their total calories."
Bernal also warns that giving your pup too much oatmeal could cause digestive health upsets due to its significant contribution to carbohydrates. If you overdo it, your doggo may have diarrhea, vomiting, and even possibly bloat, which can be life-threatening.
Oatmeal may be your preferred first meal of the day, but it shouldn't be a meal replacement for your pup's kibble. "While it may deliver a wholesome breakfast to fuel your busy day and be a great nutritional source that delivers certain nutrients, the reality for our dogs is that it still lacks many of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals a dog needs," Bernal adds.
RELATED: How Many Calories Should My Dog Eat?
What Kinds of Oatmeal Can Dogs Eat?
Not all oatmeal varieties are created equally—some feature flavors and added sugar that aren't safe for your pup. Here's how to pick the right option for a dog-friendly oatmeal snack.
Cooked oatmeal is the best way to serve your pup, but ensure you don't make it with milk. Instead, Bernal suggests using water or salt-free meat broth. "Using whole oats and gently cooking the oats helps optimize digestion and deliver the nutritional goodness that oats contain: fiber, protein, vitamin A, B vitamins, phosphorus, zinc, iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, and linoleic acid," she says
There's a reason many Americans love instant oatmeal—simply add water, heat up, and serve. Though it definitely is simple and fast, it's not the best approach for your dog. In fact, McCarthy says to use extreme caution with instant oatmeal. "You should avoid oatmeals with mix-ins and flavorings as these usually contain higher amounts of sugar and even artificial sweeteners that are very toxic to dogs, like xylitol," she explains. "Unless it is completely plain, minimally processed oats that are instant with water, I would avoid instant oatmeal."
While flavors are preferred by many of us, Bernal says they are not needed and will add unnecessary calories for dogs. Much like instant oatmeal, flavored oatmeal packets also feature artificial additives and sweeteners, like xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs. "If you are keen to flavor up your dog's oatmeal still, using some salt-free meat broth with whole rolled oats instead may be a healthier and more dog-appropriate option," she notes.
Bernal says uncooked oatmeal should be avoided since it's a challenge to chew and swallow, but it can also be especially tough for a dog with sensitive digestion. "Gently cooking the oatmeal optimizes digestion, increases taste, and will still deliver the high-quality nutrition that oatmeal provides," she says.
Whether it's oatmeal raisin cookies or oatmeal cream pies, can your pup have a sweet treat? Definitely not, Bernal says. They pack on the calories for your dog and introduce unnecessary ingredients into their diets. "A little corner of your cookie may not seem like much, but to a 22-pound dog, one oatmeal cookie can quickly add up," she continues. "A one-ounce oatmeal and raisin cookie can deliver 123 calories which may be a tasty treat for us, but for dogs, this can deliver over one-fourth of their total daily requirements, making it quickly more than a treat and thus a potential contributor to the dog's weight gain."
Plus, oatmeal raisin cookies contain—yep, you guessed it—raisins. Which, just like grapes, are toxic for dogs.
Just like oatmeal cookies and instant or flavored oatmeal, oatmeal cereal should be avoided. "As a highly processed item, the overall nutrition that the oats deliver for dogs has been reduced when produced into an oatmeal cereal," Bernal says. "Also, there are often numerous ingredients included such as artificial flavors that dogs simply don't need, predispose the dog to significantly more calories, or may place them at a greater risk of a digestive upset."