For any human craving a comforting, warming breakfast we probably reach for the porridge oats. But oats are a staple ingredient in plenty of other treats like flapjacks, cookies, or as a thickener and binder in everything from smoothies to burgers.
We’re also keen to include these great grains in our meals because they have a host of healthy benefits. Yet for a very long time, oats were seen more as feed for livestock than for humans. Farm animals like horses and cows find them oat-so delicious, and some pet foods do contain oats.
But can dogs eat oats, and can our hounds benefit from the same health kick humans do after a bowl of porridge?
Yes, dogs can eat oats in moderation. You probably shouldn’t feed your dog a scoop of plain, raw oats, I imagine they’d stick in their throat and be a little irritating, to say the least. Although a small amount of uncooked overnight oats or a sprinkle of rolled oats should be perfectly safe.
Meanwhile, most dogs seem to love porridge, and it’s a great treat to offer your pooch from time to time. If you do cook your oats before feeding them to your dog, just remember to let them cool down to room temperature before serving them to your friend.
Your dog can eat a few uncooked rolled oats from time to time, or uncooked overnight oats if that’s your preferred breakfast. If you’re going to offer your dog raw oats you can only feed them a small amount as they aren’t as easy to digest as cooked. They are harder to pass through the intestines too so there is the potential they could cause slight stomach upset.
Raw and unprocessed oats also contain phytic acid which can bind with certain minerals and make them harder to absorb into the body. If your pooch has an iron or zinc deficiency, it’s probably best not to offer them uncooked oats as the phytic acid can limit the amount of zinc and iron that they can absorb from their food.
Yes, dogs can eat porridge oats as long as they’re plain. Don’t give your pup any of those instant or flavoured porridges because they simply aren’t as healthy for your hound. These flavoured oats can contain sugar and salt which your dog doesn’t need to be included in their diet, and there may even be more toxic ingredients like raisins or xylitol.
Humans are typically advised that the less processed, plain oats are more beneficial for them and healthier, and the same logic is true for your pooch.
Since both oats and honey are safe for dogs to eat, yes, dogs can eat oats with honey. It is quite calorific though given the carbs in the oats and the sugary honey, so you do need to exercise moderation and maybe save it as a special treat.
Most kinds of oats are perfectly safe for dogs to eat, such as milled, rolled, and steel-cut oats. However, you won’t want to feed your dog instant oats.
Instant oats are more heavily processed but they are also often sweetened and flavoured. These additional ingredients can potentially make your dog ill and generally aren’t healthy for them.
Some recipes might also contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as raisins, sultanas, and the sweetener xylitol. (Or another ingredient that itself contains xylitol, such as some brands of maple syrup.)
Oats are rich in soluble fibre which is brilliant at keeping your dog’s digestive system healthy. It helps to keep things moving and feeds the good bacteria in their gut. Soluble fibre also helps to slow digestion and the absorption of sugar into the body, which helps to regulate their energy and blood sugar levels so they stay stable.
One of the soluble fibres in oats, beta-glucan, has been linked to healthy hearts and lower cholesterol in humans, and is believed to aid weight loss, and it’s possible that your pooch could benefit from all this too.
These splendid grains are also super at keeping their fur shiny and healthy because they contain B vitamins, omega 6 fatty acids, and linoleic acid. This combination of vitamins and acids also promote the growth of healthy skin cells and strengthens their skin’s barrier, which helps to prevent future skin problems.
Linoleic acid also has a role in wound healing and fighting inflammation, so it can help your pooch to heal if they’re in a scrape or feeling a little sensitive.
As well as positive benefits for your pup’s skin and gut, oats are a fantastic source of plant-based protein. Dogs need lots of protein to stay healthy, as the amino acids they provide are the building blocks of every new protein your dog’s body creates whether it’s to grow new skin cells, hair, ligaments, nails, or to grow and repair their muscles. Protein is also im-paw-tent for hormone production.
They can, but they probably shouldn’t. Your dog should be eating a complete, balanced diet as their main meals every day, including breakfast. A spoonful of oats on their morning meal as a treat shouldn’t do them any harm though, just don’t do it every day. And if your pooch is overweight, you should cut back on titbits like oats to try and help them to lose weight.
It depends on why you’re asking. If you’re wondering which are better in terms of nutritional content and health benefits, then oats are probably the better choice. However, if you’re wondering if oats or rice are better for dogs, you’re probably asking because your dog needs to eat a bland diet for a few days.
Vets sometimes advise dogs to eat bland diets if they have been sick or had surgery, to help them recover without putting excess strain on their digestive system. Bland meals aren’t very nutritious but they’re packed with carbohydrates and protein and are made from highly-digestible ingredients that are easy to break down, putting less strain on your pup’s gut, and are easier to absorb nutrients from.
Most vets advise dogs to eat boiled white rice and boiled chicken breast if they require a bland diet. In this scenario, rice is better than oats because it is easier to digest. However, you can discuss with your vet if oats are a suitable alternative for your dog.
Yes, dogs can be allergic to oats, but it is uncommon. If your dog is allergic to oats, it could be either contact dermatitis or a dietary allergy. Contact dermatitis means that topical exposure to oats can cause symptoms like rashes, redness, and itching.
A dietary allergy can be trickier to spot because it can cause similar skin problems as well as gastrointestinal issues such as stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
In fact, more often than not, oats are actually used to help relieve the symptoms of an allergy, because the nutrients help to soothe sensitive skin and relieve symptoms such as inflammation and itching. (That’s why you can find so many oatmeal shampoos.) Oats are also often used as a replacement for wheat or another grain that a dog is allergic to.
Yes, your dog can safely eat oats, but you might want to consider making them into something more interesting like a dog-safe oat muffin or some dog-friendly porridge rather than just sprinkling raw oats onto their dinner. That being said, you can probably try adding a teaspoon of oats to their food from time to time.
Just remember to always feed your pooch oats in moderation. If they’ve never eaten any before, keep the serving small and introduce it to their diet slowly whilst making sure they don’t show any signs of sickness.
If your pup seems to like oats and they don’t disagree with their belly, feel free to offer them some oaty treats from time to time.
Although oats are a great source of fibre, it's better to feed your dog a food where the fibre levels are already balanced. Pure is packed full of nutritious goodness, and the fibre levels are perfectly balanced to promote all-round good gut and digestive health. Pure food equals better bellies, better stools and happier, healthier dogs.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.