Dogs often are so eager to grab a bite of any human food that they can get their mouths on that they don’t pause even to see what it is before they inhale it.
My veterinary hospital receives calls daily inquiring whether or not the food that a sneaky canine just grabbed off the table or out of the trash is safe for them to eat.
Pet parents also like to share their meals with their furry friends and are frequently curious about what foods are safe to share and which should be kept far from Fido’s reach.
Salty snacks such as pretzels are a common food that I am asked about. So can dogs safely eat pretzels? Dogs can eat pretzels; they are not toxic food for dogs.
However, pretzels, whether the hard and crunchy variety or the soft baked and fluffy ones, almost always come covered in lots of salt. Salt can pose a serious threat to your dog if they consume too much.
Do Dogs Like Pretzels?
Cats are often picky eaters with very discerning palates. This is not true of dogs. A dog will usually eat anything that it is offered and also things it is not.
Dogs tend to grab things out of the trash and out of people’s hands without a moment’s notice. Any food that smells good or that your dog thinks you may be enjoying is fair game.
If a dog cannot grab a tasty bite, they will often beg and plead with their cute faces and sad eyes until we give in and share our snack with them.
So, if you are enjoying pretzels with your meal, is it safe to share? Will Fido enjoy your pretzel too? The answers are yes, in moderation, and more than likely yes.
Are Pretzels Good For Dogs?
Now that we know that pretzels are most likely going to be desired and enjoyed by our dogs, we need to decide if we should give in and let him have a few.
In terms of nutrition, pretzels are not going to be a healthy part of your dog’s diet. They will not offer any protein, vitamins, or other positive health benefits.
Dogs are omnivores, as humans are, so they can digest grains and proteins from meats. This makes them less likely to have gastrointestinal upset from a pretzel snack than a cat.
However, dog digestive systems are not the same as humans’ systems. They are not accustomed to eating the variety of foods we are, and small changes can have significant impacts.
Foods That Are Toxic To Dogs
Pretzels are not toxic to dogs. However, some toppings or coatings that can be found on pretzels can be toxic. Examples include:
- macadamia nuts
If you are going to share a pretzel snack with your canine companion, opt for a plain pretzel with only a little salt.
Dogs Should Not Eat Salt
The main concern with feeding pretzels to dogs is their high salt content. It would require a dog to eat a large volume of pretzels, but too much salt can lead to salt toxicity in dogs.
Salt is helpful as it adds flavor and makes the foods we eat more appealing. However, dogs are smaller than humans and are more sensitive to the potential for salt toxicity.
The amount of excess salt that is necessary for salt toxicity in a dog varies with the dog’s size and is also influenced by other factors such as their breed, age, and health status.
Excess Salt Is Dangerous
Salt (technically sodium) in excess in dogs is dangerous because it acts to disrupt the delicate balance of water in the dog’s body.
When dogs ingest more salt than they need for their daily dietary requirements, they must expel it. This requires water, and the result is a thirsty dog.
More salt leads to more water being expelled, which leads to dehydration. Even with increased thirst, the dog’s body cannot keep up, and the dehydration worsens.
If a dog ingests too much salt, clinical signs to be watchful for include:
- Reluctance to eat
Dogs suspected to be suffering from salt toxicity should be taken to a veterinarian for emergency treatment right away, as this condition can be life-threatening.
Also, remember that it is not only pretzels that can cause salt toxicity. Anything that is highly salty or results in a dog consuming too much sodium can cause a life-threatening issue.
Smaller dogs are more at risk due to their smaller body mass.
Other Dangers Of Pretzels For Dogs
Other things that can make feeding pretzels dangerous for your dog may not seem readily apparent at first. These dangers are usually ingredients baked into, topped on, or covering the pretzels.
These more dangerous pretzels are often the big, soft-baked pretzels found in eateries or the smaller, snack bag-style hard-baked pretzels you find in stores.
These pretzel types are more dangerous because they are often topped with flavorings containing onions, garlic, or other toxic ingredients.
There are also dessert varieties that are dipped in chocolate and may also contain macadamia nuts.
It is better to leave these snacks for human use only and ensure they are kept out of reach of all dogs. They are not nutritious, and their toxic ingredients make them outright dangerous for your dog.
How Many Pretzels Can A Dog Eat Daily?
As with most questions about dogs, the answer to this question is highly dependent on how large or small the dog in question is.
It is likely a safe rule of thumb to limit all dogs to small nibbles of plain pretzels if you are going to share your snack with them. If the dog is very small or very young, it is better to avoid pretzels altogether.
Even if you are careful and only feed your dog a pretzel bite here or there, it is important to note that this should be an occasional treat and not an everyday occurrence.
Dogs need to eat a balanced diet with appropriate nutrition.
What’s Unhealthy About Pretzels For Dogs?
If a dog is fed too many treats, even if they are healthy treats, they may be too full to eat adequate amounts of their dog food. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Pretzels are high in carbohydrates and very low in protein. This can lead to unhealthy weight and obesity. Dogs need to eat a properly balanced diet formulated for their species.
Being overweight or obese can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes mellitus.
If you allow your dog a pretzel or two as a snack, ensure they have unrestricted access to adequate amounts of clean, fresh water.
Always observe your dog and make sure they are not showing any signs of gastrointestinal distress or other illness. This is especially important if you are offering your dog pretzels for the first time.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Pretzels Accidentally
Sometimes dogs eat things that we do not intend for them to eat. The pet parent may not be offering pretzels as a treat or snack to the dog, but the dog may have gotten into pretzels anyway.
This can occur when pretzels are left unattended, if there is a spilled bag, or a naughty dog finds its way into the trash.
There are many situations where a dog might eat pretzels without your permission or knowledge.
Whether or not this is an emergency or a dangerous situation depends on quite a few things. First, how many pretzels were eaten?
Also, were the pretzels covered or topped with anything toxic, such as onions, garlic, chocolate, or macadamia nuts?
When To Go To The Vet
If the dog ate a large number of pretzels or the pretzels contained toxic ingredients, they should be taken to their veterinarian immediately.
If their regular veterinarian is not open, the services of an emergency veterinary hospital should be utilized.
Other concerning scenarios include small dogs, young dogs, and dogs with any type of health issue. In these cases, a veterinarian should be contacted for advice on the next steps.
If the dog is a healthy, normal-sized adult and only a small amount of pretzels with no toxic ingredients were ingested, the dog should be monitored carefully. Water should be offered. Gastrointestinal distress may be seen.
If there are any concerns or questions, a veterinarian should be consulted right away. See above for a list of clinical signs of salt toxicity to watch for.
What To Expect
- You might be asked to take your dog in for a check-up or treatment, or you might be advised to monitor your dog to see if any symptoms develop.
- Make sure to keep lids on trash cans and cabinet doors, and drawers in the kitchen shut. Baby-proofing devices can be very helpful with these tasks.
- Keep all snacks up high and out of reach, and never leave them unattended, even for a few moments.
Pretzels are safe for a dog to eat in very limited amounts as they are not toxic themselves.
However, due to their high salt content and the fact that many varieties do contain toxic ingredients, it is likely a better idea to choose a different treat for your dog.
Dr. Jamie Whittenburg is a vet with 15 years of clinical experience. She graduated from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. Her area of expertise is small animal general practice, equine practice, surgery, and academia.
Dr. Whittenburg operates her own hospital in Lubbock, TX, named Kingsgate Animal Hospital. Medically, she’s most interested in practicing general surgery and feline medicine. When not at work, Dr. Whittenburg enjoys outdoor activities, reading, and spending time with her family.