Slices of rye bread on white background

Can Dogs Eat Rye Bread? Vet-Verified Nutrition Facts & FAQ

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.


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Sharing food comes naturally to us. It doesn’t matter if it’s our family or a friend; it’s a bonding experience. Therefore, it’s not a stretch if the things we want to give our dog extends to many tasty morsels we like to eat, including rye bread. This item is an anomaly. Rye bread is likely safe to give to your pup in moderation. However, there are several caveats to this statement we must address.

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Why Dogs Can Eat Rye Bread

Domestication has profoundly influenced our canine companions in many unexpected ways. Yes, humans have selectively bred dogs to over 300 breeds that exist today. That has affected the jobs they do for us and the way they look. Modern efforts focused on conformation and desirable traits. However, domestication has also affected the animal’s physiology.

Dogs diverged from wolves roughly 27,000 years ago. It’s a fair assumption to say they aren’t the same animals that hunted with us or protected our homes thousands of years ago. Living alongside us has altered their DNA to allow them to metabolize starches that generally wouldn’t make up a significant portion of their diets.

We exposed dogs to new foods by giving them our scraps. Evolution allowed them to adapt to digest these novel sources. Interestingly, dogs accompanied humans during our transition to a more plant-based diet with the advent of agriculture. That situation also exposed them to these food sources. Exposure equals opportunities to adapt.

A loaf of rye bread cut in half on a wooden cutting board
Image Credit: Vik tor, Shutterstock

Benefits and Dangers of Feeding Rye Bread to Dogs

The potential benefits of feeding your pup rye bread lie in its nutrient content. It is an excellent source of fiber, and contains protein as well as potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.

Dietary fiber is important for regulating the digestive system and preventing constipation. Formal requirements for carbohydrates and fiber don’t exist for dogs and cats, but, nevertheless, they can be beneficial in certain amounts, given dogs’ adaptations through the centuries. If you think your dog would benefit from more fiber in their diet you should always consult with your veterinarian before adding high fiber human foods like rye bread to their regular diet.

Why Dogs Shouldn’t Eat Rye Bread

Many things we eat probably aren’t good for us, either. Everything in moderation is the key to good health. A regular slice of rye bread contains roughly 83 calories. That may not be a big deal for an adult with a recommended caloric intake of 2,000 calories, but it’s a different story for a 20-pound dog needing only  500 calories or less a day. That one slice of bread already accounts for a sixth of the animal’s recommended intake!

The other concerns rest with ingredients you may find in rye bread. At the top of the list is caraway seeds. According to the  American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), this herb is mildly toxic to dogs. It can cause mild digestive upset because of its carvone and limonene content. It’s worth noting that the former is also present in dill and spearmint.

Some rye bread may contain nuts like hazelnuts and walnuts. They can present a choking hazard, although they aren’t toxic to dogs. The exception to the rule for the latter is nuts affected by a mold called Aspergillus flavus. It can produce harmful aflatoxins. Ingestion can cause vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite. The fat content may also lead to GI distress.

Belgian Malinois laying infront of a food bowl
Image Credit: BoJack, Shutterstock

We recommend checking the ingredients on the label. Some breads may contain onions or garlic, which are highly toxic to dogs. Ingestion can cause Heinz body formation in the red blood cells that can destroy them, leading to anemia and other severe outcomes.

Another red flag is the sugar alcohol xylitol, which is common in many bakery products. Ingestion can lead to life-threatening drops in blood sugar. Sadly, it doesn’t take a lot to cause problems. In severe cases, xylitol can lead to seizures and liver failure. All the harmful ingredients we’ve mentioned underscore our advice not to give pets people food because of these hidden risks.

This discussion only involves baked rye bread. Bread dough of any kind is extremely dangerous, and anything you put on a slice of rye bread, like butter or jam, can add other concerns to giving your pet this food. The takeaway is that dogs aren’t little humans. It isn’t a given that your pup can eat anything you can. Therefore, we recommend only offering your pooch commercial products formulated for their unique dietary needs.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are All Grains Bad for Dogs?

No. They can be a part of a healthy diet because of the reasons we cited earlier. They aren’t fillers, as some marketers may claim. They are efficacious in many pet products. The greater concern may actually exist with certain grain-free foods than those with grains.

Can My Dog Be Allergic to Rye Bread?

It’s unlikely your pup will be allergic to rye bread. Beef, chicken, and other animal protein sources are more common allergens than gluten and grains. However, we recommend starting slow when introducing any new food to your pet. Give them a small piece and observe any reactions after ingestion before offering it again. But remember that your pet doesn’t need to have these additions to their diet.

Are There Any Other Concerns About Rye Bread?

The sugar and fat content may be a factor with some products. Some recipes contain other problematic ingredients, such as orange zest or anise, that may cause vomiting or GI distress. Again, check the label carefully before giving anything to your pup.

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Conclusion

Our relationship with canines probably began with us sharing scraps of food with them. However, we’ve come a long way from the days of hunting for our next meal. Manufacturers have fine-tuned commercial diets to meet your pup’s nutritional needs, regardless of their life stage or health concerns. While rye bread isn’t necessarily toxic, it isn’t altogether safe, either.
We recommend keeping the bread for your sandwiches and the dog food for your pet. Remember that these products are complete and balanced, whereas rye bread is not. It can cause health issues depending on the ingredients and may contribute to obesity. Give your pooch a well-earned, dog-safe treat instead.


Featured Image Credit: EM Arts, Shutterstock

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