Bread baking has quickly become a popular hobby. With the rise in people baking their own bread, there has also been an increase in bread-related pet consumption calls to the ASPCA Poison Control Center. Learn why bread dough consumption is so dangerous for both dogs and cats, and what to do if dough is ingested.
The Dangers of Dough
Fully-baked bread is safe for pets as an occasional treat, so long as it's not raisin bread—however, dogs and cats should never be allowed to eat uncooked, yeasted bread dough. Raw, uncooked yeast ferments the carbohydrates in the dough, producing ethanol and carbon dioxide. This process can continue in the stomach, leading the animal to become disoriented, bloated (potentially leading to GDV), and ataxic—and just like people, alcohol poisoning can be fatal for pets. The initial signs of drunkenness progress to acidosis, tremors, hypotension, hypothermia and respiratory depression. The risk of aspiration is high as ethanol is directly irritating to the stomach, causing vomiting, yet it also paralyzes the muscles that close the epiglottis.
Treatment of Dough Consumption
The severity of symptoms varies based on the amount of dough ingested, but in any case, every second counts. If you receive a call from an owner or are presented with a dog or cat who has gotten into raw bread dough, emesis should be induced within an hour of the exposure. Do not induce emesis if the patient is already symptomatic.
If emesis is not a viable option, treatment should include gastric lavage, fluid therapy, pressor agents and use of antiemetics as needed. Most patients recover within 12-24 hours with supportive care. Activated charcoal is not indicated as it does not bind to ethanol and increases the risk of aspiration. Hemodialysis can be used in severe cases.
A key part of baking bread is giving it time to rise (proof). While proofing dough may not look appetizing to people, it may to pets. It’s important not to leave dough out to rise in an area accessible by dogs and cats, including countertops.
And, if a pet gets into a packet of yeast before any ingredients are mixed, there’s no need to worry. Yeast needs a source of sugar to ferment into alcohol and carbon dioxide, so there’s no danger with yeast consumption straight from the package.