Picture it: you’re putting together some S’mores for a late night snack, and your furry pal gives you those big, sad puppy eyes. And there you are, asking yourself “Can dogs eat graham crackers?”
The answer is no, even though graham crackers normally don’t contain ingredients that are "dangerous foods" and toxic to dogs, like nuts and chocolate. So there’s no need to panic if your dog runs off with a small piece of cracker you dropped on the floor. Eating a small amount of graham crackers is unlikely to harm your dog.
However, graham crackers can cause problems for your pooch in the long run, as can other sugary foods. To learn more about these harmful effects, let’s start by looking at your dog’s dietary needs.
Do dogs need carbohydrates?
As you’re probably aware, graham crackers contain carbohydrates, which tend to get a bad rep. But carbs are a necessary source of fiber and energy for human beings. As for dogs... that’s a bit more complicated.
On the one hand, there’s plenty of websites out there that insist dogs have no need for carbohydrates. After all, you don’t see wolf packs raiding wheat and corn fields, right?
On the other hand, most commercial dog foods - even the premium kinds - contain carbs in some form or another.
What it comes down to is the type of carbs. For example, premium dog food brands use healthy carbs like oats, brown rice, and sweet potato. These are positive for dog nutrition and do a lot of great things for your dog’s body, including regulating its blood sugar and helping with digestion.
Unfortunately, the carbs in graham crackers are mostly white flour and sugar. These are the “bad carbs,” the ones that can lead to obesity and diabetes. Dogs are very prone to both of these conditions, so it’s best to keep things like crackers and cookies away from your pooch.
Why sugar is so bad for your dog
Let’s talk a bit more about why sugar is so bad for your dog.
First, it’s important to understand that dogs have a much lower threshold for sugar than we do. When they absorb more than what their bodies need, they can suffer from all kinds of problems, including vomiting and diarrhea.
Even if they have a digestive system of steel, sugary foods can cause weight gain. This happens much faster than you think, especially for small dogs that can become obese just from gaining a few pounds.
Obesity has many harmful consequences for your dog, including heart problems, trouble breathing, joint pain, and diabetes.
And let’s not forget dental issues, primarily cavities. Your dog’s teeth are already exposed to some amount of sugar from commercial dog foods and treats. So anything else you give them on top of that is likely to cause dental problems in the long run.
Are occasional treats safe?
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “But an occasional treat isn’t going to hurt, right?”
Well, no. But here’s the big question: can you really limit it to a tiny piece here and there?
That all depends on how disciplined you are when your dog starts begging and whining. Most people break down after a while, thinking that carbohydrates sugars and other ingredients wont hurt their dog's digestive system and overall health.
And once you start the habit, your dog will quickly catch on to how easy it is to manipulate you. Before you know it, you’re slipping your dog a piece of cracker, cookie, or anything else you’re eating. In short, things can easily spin out of control, even with the best of intentions.
What about sugar-free crackers?
If sugar is the main culprit, then what about sugar-free graham crackers? There’s plenty of them at your local grocery store, including organic and keto versions, which sound super healthy.
But these healthier snacks often contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that tastes like sugar. People love that it’s lower in calories and doesn’t cause the blood sugar spikes that you would get from sugar.
While xylitol may be a healthier alternative for you, it’s extremely dangerous for your dog. Xylitol can actually make your dog’s blood sugar levels drop, which causes serious complications like anxiety, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, and seizures. In some cases, it can even cause liver failure.
Aside from graham crackers, xylitol can be found in lots of foods you may already have in your fridge and pantry. Various brands of ice cream, chewing gum, cake/jello/ pudding mixes, and condiments contain xylitol.
That’s why it’s best to cut the “table scrap” habit with your dog, no matter how cute they look when they beg. But if you give in, don’t beat yourself up too much. Just remind yourself of all the reasons we’ve talked about today.
We promise you that no matter how much they whine, your dog won’t hate you for denying them a piece of that sugary donut.
Sweet and savory dog-safe snacks
It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to human foods that dogs can eat. In fact, there are quite a few tasty and healthy snacks with nutritional value that you can share with your dog:
The key with these foods is moderation. These are snacks, after all, not replacements for your dog’s daily meals. Think of them as special treats once or twice a week, and only in small portions, like a spoonful of yogurt or half a boiled egg. You definitely shouldn't get in the habit of giving your dog anything other than proper dog food.
This goes for all dogs, whether you've got a tiny chihuahua or a big german shepherd, avoid excess amounts of added sugars and refined wheat when treating your pet.
You can also stick to healthy alternatives like fruit and veggie snacks, if you’re looking for plant based options. Here are some all-time favorites that you can try with your dog:
As you can see, there’s plenty of delicious, healthy snacks that you can offer your dog and the consumption of graham crackers should be avoided if possible. Of course, most of your dog’s diet should consist of a high-quality commercial dog food, or a food plan that’s been approved by your vet. But it’s fun - for both you and your pup - to include some treats every now and then!