Cereal is an easy, inexpensive breakfast staple, so whether you’re munching on a nutritious brand of flakes or bran or a sweet kids' favorite loaded with tons of sugar, you may wonder if it’s safe to share your go-to morning meal with your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Cereal?
When it comes to cereal, there’s no hard and fast rule on doggy consumption because every variety contains different ingredients. However, while it may be okay for your toddler to sneak their four-legged buddy a handful of Cheerios every once in a while, cereals containing potentially toxic ingredients to dogs, such as chocolate, raisins, or nuts, are always a no-no.
If you’re going to offer your dog cereal, it should always be given in strict moderation, and you’ll want to stick to low-sugar, whole-grain varieties that have more nutritional value and less sweetness and fillers. These types of cereal may even have some health benefits for your dog, such as helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and even boosting your pooch’s energy.
Dog owners should be aware that the high fiber content in some of the healthier cereals may not be easy for every dog to digest.
If your dog gobbles up a few pieces of cereal that fell on the floor at breakfast time, it’s probably fine—but for the most part, you’ll want to offer cereal that’s dry because dairy products like milk don’t sit well with every dog—and, as dogs age, their tolerance for dairy and lactose continues to decline.
Is Cereal Healthy for Dogs?
While there are a handful of cereals that are considered nutritious for both humans and their dogs, for the most part, cereal just doesn’t pack the same nutritional punch for your pooch. However, some types of cereal, such as oatmeal (made with water), may occasionally be recommended by veterinarians to help your dog with digestive issues like constipation and can be served as a rare treat, with the blessing of your veterinarian.
Additionally, though many cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals considered beneficial to humans, your dog would have to eat a whole lot of cereal for those vitamins and minerals to make an impact—and it would never be a good idea to offer your dog a significant amount of cereal, even if it's a "healthy" variety, because of the high risk of tummy troubles. While some cereals are OK to offer as an occasional treat, cereal should never replace your pet’s regular diet because its high grain content means it’s not particularly nutritious for pups. Many cereals also tend to be processed with additives that make the breakfast staple far less nutritious to both humans and their canine counterparts.
The good news is that since most cereals are relatively low in fat and calories, it's not likely to promote weight gain in your pet as long as you're offering cereal in moderation.
Dangers of Cereal for Dogs
When it comes to cereals with a high sugar content, or any that brands that contain chocolate or other toxic ingredients ingredients like raisins or nuts, those varieties should always be off-limits to your pet. Examples of cereals that are not only unhealthy, but potentially unsafe, for your dog are cereals that have over 10 grams of sugar per serving, and even that amount can be too much. Sugary cereals can cause symptoms of digestive distress in your pet, such as diarrhea, while consuming cereals containing chocolate or raisins could potentially be deadly.
Long-term consumption of sugary cereals could also cause obesity in your pet, in addition to increasing their risk for serious diseases like pancreatitis. Just like humans, too much sugar can also cause dental issues in dogs, including tooth decay and tooth loss, and cereal is often a culprit for dental decay because sweeter brands can get sticky and cling to your dog’s teeth.
Depending on the size of your pet—and the cereal in question—there’s also a chance that this popular breakfast food can be a choking hazard. Sometimes pieces of cereal can clump together, particularly if it's already been soaked in milk, which can be be both difficult for your dog to swallow as well as has the potential to become lodged in your pet’s digestive tract.
People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets. ASPCA Animal Poison Control
Craig, J.M. (2019), Food intolerance in dogs and cats. J Small Anim Pract, 60: 77-85. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsap.12959