Oatmeal is generally considered a healthy and nutritious food for dogs to eat in moderation. Here is a quick overview of the pros and cons of feeding oatmeal to dogs:
Pros of Oatmeal for Dogs
- Good source of soluble fiber – Can help regulate digestion and promote bowel regularity
- Contains vitamins and minerals – Such as manganese, selenium, phosphorus, and B vitamins
- Provides energy – From complex carbohydrates that are digested slowly
- May help with weight control – Fiber provides bulk without a lot of calories
- Easy to digest – Cooked oatmeal is gentle on the stomach
- Inexpensive and readily available
Potential Cons of Oatmeal for Dogs
- Contains phytic acid – May slightly reduce absorption of some minerals
- High carbohydrate content – Not ideal for dogs with diabetes or obesity
- Possible allergies or sensitivities – Dogs may be allergic to oatmeal itself or ingredients added to it
- Weight gain if overfed – Still contains calories and carbohydrates
- Unsuitable flavoring or ingredients – Sugar, raisins, cinnamon, etc can be harmful
Oatmeal Nutrition Facts
Here are the nutrition facts for a 1 cup cooked serving of plain oatmeal made from dry oats:
DV = Daily Value
Benefits of Oatmeal for Dogs
Rich Source of Soluble Fiber
One of the biggest benefits of oatmeal is that it is a rich source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps to regulate digestion in dogs by absorbing water in the intestines and forming a gel-like substance. This helps move food through the digestive tract at an optimal pace, preventing diarrhea or constipation.
The soluble fiber in oatmeal can also helpremove waste and toxins from the body. It helps maintain bowel regularity in dogs without causing excess gas or bloating. Soluble fiber may also help dogs feel full longer after eating, which can aid weight control.
Provides Essential Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to fiber, oatmeal contains a number of other vitamins and minerals that are essential for dogs. One mineral oatmeal has in abundance is manganese, which provides over 70% of the recommended daily amount per serving. Manganese helps regulate blood sugar, metabolize nutrients, and form connective tissue and bones.
Oatmeal is also a good source of selenium, phosphorus, thiamin, magnesium, and copper. These minerals support immune health, enzyme function, energy production, bone strength, blood cell formation, and oxygen transportation.
Easy to Digest
The soluble fiber and smooth texture of cooked oatmeal makes it easy for most dogs to digest. That’s why oatmeal is sometimes recommended for dogs with sensitive stomachs that have trouble tolerating other grains. The fiber helps food move smoothly through the GI tract, while the low fat content is less taxing to digest.
Oatmeal is also a good source of probiotics that can support healthy digestion. Some dog owners will cook oatmeal with low-fat milk or yogurt to enhance these probiotic effects.
Provides Long-Lasting Energy
Complex carbohydrates like oatmeal provide dogs with a steady source of energy that lasts longer than simple sugars. The carbs in oatmeal are digested and absorbed slowly, preventing energy spikes and crashes.
For active or high-energy dogs that need to refuel, a bowl of oatmeal can help provide fuel for their activities without overloading them with calories. The soluble fiber also helps dogs feel satisfied and full after eating.
Helps with Weight Control
While oatmeal should still be fed in moderation to overweight or obese dogs, it can be helpful for maintaining or reaching a healthy weight. The high fiber and complex carb content provide bulk and make dogs feel full without providing a huge amount of calories.
By keeping dogs satisfied longer after eating, oatmeal may help decrease begging for treats and overeating at mealtimes. The manganese in oatmeal also helps regulate blood sugar levels, which can further aid weight control.
Potential Concerns with Oatmeal for Dogs
Contains Phytic Acid
Oatmeal does contain small amounts of phytic acid, also known as phytates. Phytic acid can bind to certain minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium and prevent them from being absorbed as efficiently. This effect can potentially lead to mineral deficiencies when very high amounts of phytic acid are consumed.
However, the phytic acid in oatmeal is not a major concern for dogs when fed in moderation. Any impacts on mineral absorption are minimal and offset by the number of important vitamins and minerals oatmeal provides.
High in Carbohydrates
Since oatmeal is high in carbohydrates, it may not be the best option for dogs with certain health conditions. Dogs with diabetes, pancreatitis, obesity, or sensitivities to gluten may do better limiting or avoiding oatmeal altogether due to its carb content.
For dogs at a healthy weight with no underlying issues, the complex carbs in oatmeal are generally healthy in moderation. But overweight dogs or those with blood sugar problems may require a lower carb diet without oatmeal.
Possible Allergies and Sensitivities
While oatmeal is less allergenic than some other grains, dogs can still develop allergies or sensitivities to it. Common symptoms of a food allergy include itching, skin irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The gluten in oatmeal can also cause issues for dogs with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. If allergy symptoms appear after feeding oatmeal, discontinue use and consult your vet.
Weight Gain if Overfed
One downside of oatmeal is that it still contains a significant number of calories and carbs if overfed. Too much oatmeal could lead to weight gain in dogs, especially if additional fats, sugars or toppings are added to it.
To prevent obesity, oatmeal should be limited to no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. Follow recommended serving sizes instead of leaving oatmeal out to free-feed.
Unsuitable Ingredients Added
While plain oatmeal is healthy for dogs, some owners make the mistake of adding ingredients that can be harmful. Sugar, raisins, cinnamon, cocoa powder and other mix-ins can cause serious health issues.
Never add sugar, honey, fruit, or any flavorings to oatmeal unless vet-approved. Salt should also be avoided since it provides no nutrients and could lead to sodium toxicity over time.
How to Feed Oatmeal to Dogs
Always cook oatmeal thoroughly until it reaches a soft, mushy texture. Raw oats contain enzymes that are difficult for dogs to digest. Undercooked oatmeal can cause stomach upset and diarrhea.
Avoid Instant Varieties
Stick to traditional whole grain rolled oats or steel cut oats, and avoid instant flavored oatmeal. Quick oats may be alright occasionally, but often have added sugars.
Don’t Add Toppings
Never add syrup, sugar, milk, butter, fruit, cinnamon, etc without checking with your vet first. Most additions will provide unnecessary calories or could cause issues.
Serve Plain or with Low-Fat Milk/Yogurt
For added taste and probiotics, oatmeal can be served with a dollop of plain low-fat yogurt or milk. Always introduce new foods gradually to check for sensitivities.
Use as Part of a Balanced Diet
Oatmeal shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily calories. Combine it with their regular dog food or in moderation as an occasional treat.
Start with Small Portions
When first introducing oatmeal, start with a small amount like 1-2 tbsp for small dogs or 1/4 cup for large breeds. Gradually increase portion sizes if no digestive upset.
Don’t Leave Out Overnight
Refrigerate or discard any uneaten oatmeal within an hour or two. Like any food, oatmeal can spoil quickly and grow bacteria if left out overnight.
Oatmeal Recipes for Dogs
- 1/2 cup dry rolled oats
- 1 cup water
- Bring water to a boil.
- Add oats and reduce heat to low.
- Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and let sit for 2-3 minutes.
- Allow to cool before serving to your dog.
- 1/2 cup dry rolled oats
- 1 cup water or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tbsp canned pumpkin
- Bring water or broth to a boil.
- Stir in oats and reduce heat.
- Cook for 5 minutes until thickened.
- Remove from heat and mix in pumpkin.
- Let cool and serve.
Peanut Butter Oatmeal
- 1/2 cup dry rolled oats
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp peanut butter
- Bring water to a boil then add oats.
- Reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat and stir in peanut butter until melted.
- Allow to cool before feeding to your dog.
Oatmeal can be a healthy food choice for dogs when served properly and in moderation. The soluble fiber and nutrients in oatmeal provide many benefits such as regulating digestion, controlling weight, and providing lasting energy. However, dogs should not consume large amounts of oatmeal or have unsuitable ingredients added to prevent issues like obesity or toxicity.
When feeding oatmeal, be sure to cook it thoroughly, avoid instant flavored varieties, and never add any toppings like raisins or sugar. Introduce oatmeal gradually and in small amounts at first to ensure your dog tolerates it well. As long as oatmeal makes up a small portion of their overall diet, it can be a nutritious supplement for most dogs.