Crackers are a staple snack for humans, whether they are loaded with cheese, topped with marshmallows and chocolate, or just enjoyed on their own. They also have a reputation as good food to nibble on if you have an upset stomach.
But are they a treat we can safely share with our pets? Might they help to settle our dog’s digestive issues? Or are there hidden dangers in your pack of saltines?
Can dogs have crackers?
The main ingredients in plain, store-bought crackers are flour, salt, and a little oil for cooking.
Some leaven crackers (such as saltines) also contain yeast, and Graham crackers usually include some sugar or honey for sweetness.
None of these ingredients are poisonous to healthy dogs, though a few dogs can be intolerant or allergic to the grains in the flour.
However, certain flavorings or toppings might not be suitable for dogs.
Crackers are pretty high in calories, as they are mostly made of simple carbohydrates.
You should consider this if you offer your dog a cracker and feed them less at their next regular meal. This will help to prevent them from becoming overweight.
Which dogs should not have crackers?
If your dog is already overweight, crackers are not a good snack choice while on a diet. Try a low-calorie option like fresh steamed veggies or lean chicken instead.
Crackers may not be suitable for dogs with certain health conditions. For example, their high salt content may cause problems for dogs with heart disease or kidney disease. The high levels of simple carbohydrates may also cause diabetic dogs’ blood sugar to go high.
Do dogs like crackers?
Every dog is different, but many dogs will enjoy the salty taste and crunchy texture of crackers. Cheese or meat flavorings or toppings are also likely to be popular, so be sure to keep these kinds of snacks well out of reach!
Spicy flavors are less likely to appeal to dogs, and indeed dogs may become distressed if they accidentally eat them. Again, it is best to keep them out of reach, so dogs cannot find their way inside packets.
Are crackers good for dogs?
Crackers are mostly made of carbohydrates. The amount of fat varies between recipes, but there is also little protein, fiber, vitamins, or minerals.
Wholegrain crackers such as Triscuits may have slightly higher fiber and complex carbohydrates levels, but not by much.
This means that crackers are a good source of energy (calories) but little else.
Dogs should receive a balanced diet that is formulated according to AAFCO guidelines for their main source of food – at least 90% of their daily intake (by weight) should come from this. Crackers will not add any extra nutritional value to a dog’s diet.
Dogs who are not eating properly may find crackers more appealing than other food, and in the very short term, they could be a way to encourage them to eat a little.
However, any dog who is not eating needs to see a veterinarian, who should be able to give them medication and recommend better food choices.
If you do offer your dog crackers, make sure that they have plenty of fresh water available to drink.
Are there any crackers that are bad for dogs?
Most crackers are safe for dogs to eat, but some flavorings or toppings could potentially be dangerous.
Peanut butter is a classic cracker topping, but check the ingredients before offering some to your dog.
Some brands of peanut butter contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is harmless to humans but potentially lethal to dogs.
It can cause dangerous drops in their blood sugar levels (which can lead to weakness, wobbliness, and seizures) and can also damage their liver.
Before sharing your PB cracker with your dog, be sure to read the label carefully to look for any xylitol.
Including dried fruit like raisins or sultanas in your sweet cracker toppings might add a little fiber, but it’s not a good idea for our dogs. Grapes, and their dried versions, such as raisins and sultanas, can be very poisonous to some dogs.
Even a few raisins can be enough to cause kidney failure in an unlucky dog, so don’t take the risk – keep them firmly away from your pets!
Garlic and onion
Garlic crackers can often be found in the savory section, but we should hesitate to share them with our dogs.
Large amounts can cause damage to dogs’ red blood cells, leading to anemia, which can be life-threatening in serious cases.
The amount of garlic in crackers is small and generally should not cause any issues, but be careful feeding garlicky food to small dogs.
Too much of any food is often a bad thing, and crackers are no exception. Their high carbohydrate, low fiber make-up means that if too many are eaten, it can lead to issues with constipation.
Avoid feeding large amounts of crackers, especially if this is the only food your dog is eating at that time. Always make sure there is plenty of fresh water available to wash them down with.
My dog has eaten crackers and I’m concerned – what should I do?
If your dog has eaten crackers when they should not have, or you are concerned that the ingredients might be poisonous, then do not panic!
With prompt treatment, it is very rare for any of these issues to cause long-term problems.
First, make sure that your dog has a bowl of fresh water and encourage them to have a drink.
Then, call your local veterinarian. They should be able to advise you if any further treatment is needed and can arrange an appointment if necessary.
Crackers are rarely harmful to dogs, but they should avoid eating large amounts in one go, and certain flavorings or toppings can be poisonous.
Dogs with certain health conditions may also need to avoid eating them. Dogs may enjoy the salty taste of crackers. Still, they do not provide any nutritional benefits and should only be given as an occasional treat.
If you are concerned about your dog after eating crackers, then offer them a drink of water, and call your veterinarian straight away for advice.
Ruth graduated from Cambridge in 2014 and has worked as a small animal GP vet ever since. She is particularly interested in internal medicine, as it combines her love of problem-solving and her somewhat geeky love of knowledge, and has completed her certificate in Small Animal Medicine.