Whether you’re enjoying some sweet crunchy goodness with lashings of milk, or a more healthy and carefully considered start to your day, cereal is the breakfast we have all come to rely on.
And of course, whatever we enjoy alongside our families, we want to enjoy alongside our furry family members too.
But as a responsible dog owner, you likely already know the risks of handing any old thing over to your dog to eat. So, can dogs eat cereal? Let’s explore the options.
Is cereal good for dogs?
Not particularly. Grains and plant-based materials of these kinds are much more difficult to process and enjoy for dogs than they are for humans, although some cereals and grains are useful for their fiber content.
For instance, some cool plain oatmeal made with water – not milk! – sometimes comes recommended by dog owners looking to help their pets get over digestive blockages or constipation.
Yet even that, much like cereal overall, ought to be given to your dog in somewhat smaller doses than you’d even give to a child – and that’s true even of the largest dog breeds.
And this is all before we consider that cereal comes in many different varieties and flavors, which we will dive deeper into shortly.
Initially, it’s important to remember that if you are looking to hand your dog a few crunchy pieces of cereal – or if he or she nibbles up some cereal that’s fallen onto the kitchen floor at breakfast time – try to make sure it’s dry.
While we human beings love our cereal with milk, and dogs are likely to enjoy that flavor too, pooches ought to avoid milk as much as possible.
Milk isn’t toxic to dogs, but their digestive systems are just as ill-equipped to deal with it as they are cereal itself.
When your dog was a puppy, he or she would have lovingly lapped up milk and used it to grow, but as dogs mature, their tolerance for dairy and lactose sharply declines.
Put simply, cereal and milk as a meal for your dog are likely to lead to a lot of stomach upset.
By and large, plainer flavors of cereal are likely to be a speck more recommended for canine consumption than a brand of cereal covered in chocolate or sugar.
But of course, those more middle of the road flavors are likely to appeal less to your dog too, and you might find that trying to get these goodies into your dog’s diet is a little less appealing to them.
Naturally, the more astute dog owners among you may already be aware of the fact that corn is heavily used in dog food as a filler ingredient and to round out the nutritional value of preprepared dog foods. So surely cereal is fair game?
Sadly not so much. Even those cereals made of corn have, after all, gone through processes and had additives mixed into them that make them far less nutritious to dogs.
Almost all cereals have little in the way of nutrition to offer a dog at all – our pets simply get their needs met by different things than their human masters.
Dangers of cereal for dogs
Of course, perhaps the most immediate of the dangers of dogs eating cereal is simply how the pieces can be a choking hazard, if not outright clumping together to block digestive tracts within your pet’s body too.
These are the sorts of things all dog owners already know to watch out for, of course, but it definitely bears repeating that dogs can get a little too trigger happy wolfing down stodgy solids that become obstructive inside them from time to time.
In addition to all this though, many of the biggest dangers of cereal for dogs come from the flavoring or coatings a lot of our favorite brands use.
While massively tasty, the likes of chocolate cereal need to be kept off your dog’s menu.
Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, after all, and sadly canines do not get off the hook in this regard just because something is chocolate flavored rather than made of chocolate proper.
And although it isn’t toxic for dogs per se, sugar is also something to keep away from dogs and other pets wherever able – especially processed sugars like you would find in frosted cereals.
After all, even some fruits can be risky for dogs to eat due to the natural sugars inside, so unadjusted to digesting sugar effectively are dogs’ digestive systems.
Sugar is more of a slow burn kind of danger than chocolate covered cereal would be.
You’ll find that a dog will happily crunch down any amount of sugar-coated cereal he or she is offered, and because of that, it could all seem pretty innocent and harmless.
However, your dog will suffer some nasty long term side effects from too much sugar, be that from cereal or any other source.
Weight gain is the most obvious of these, often bringing with it an increased risk of diabetes. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to suggest that these kinds of issues do little to enhance your dog’s quality of life.
Consider also the risk of tooth decay and tooth loss from too much sugar, especially with sweet cereal brands that get sticky and cling around the teeth while being eaten.
How much cereal can a dog eat daily?
Assuming you’re asking about plainer cereal types, rather than flavourful cereal brands covered in sugar and chocolate, a plain dry small handful a day – or no more than half a cup’s worth – mixed in with the regular meals your dog enjoys often is the best way to go.
This can help to soothe digestion and give it a bit of a workout, as plain cereal kinds like muesli often have higher fiber content.
However, it’s very important to underline that cereals of any kind really ought not to be the core component of any pooch’s meal.
If the dosage of cereal is too high, your dog might get constipated, or it could get nasty for them the other way and turn to tummy upsets and diarrhea.
If your pet shows these kinds of symptoms, consider altering the dose of cereal he or she eats or removing it from their diet altogether, and seeing if it helps.
What to do if your dog eats cereal
The best way to react when dogs eat cereal largely depends on the type of cereal being consumed, and its amount.
A small scattering of cereal that falls onto the floor, whatever flavor it might be, isn’t going to cause any lethal harm if your dog gobbles it up faster than you can react.
That said, if this begins happening regularly, think about how you can prevent your dog from trying to get to what’s dropped on the floor, and train him or her to leave it alone.
If your dog has somehow broken into and eaten a whole box of chocolate cereal, you’re advised to contact your vet right away.
The chocolate content could well be toxic to your pet and lead to a lot of unhappy and unwell feelings in the animal that a vet can help overcome and prevent.
If your dog has eaten lots of sugary cereal, you might find that he or she begins feeling pretty poorly pretty fast.
Like a child who eats too much ice cream, your pet will be grouchy and likely to become rather lazy.
He or she will want to sleep off their stomach ache, but be aware also that your dog might throw up or experience some nasty messy toilet time later on.
And of course, any amount of cereal of even the plainer kind can cause stomach upsets all of its own – high fiber food like this just isn’t what dogs have evolved to process.
Keep plenty of water close by for your pet as he or she works through an upset tummy and hopefully doesn’t suffer any constipation.
By and large, this is more an issue of behavior than of medical emergency.
Make sure your dog knows not to just gulp down anything that happens to be in front of them, and train him or her to recognize that cereal is largely off the menu.
Cereal is a fantastic way to start the day – for humans.
Giving it to dogs is generally not advised except as an occasional treat, and even then it ought to be as free from sugar and sweeteners as possible – to say nothing of chocolate, which must be avoided at all cost.
Never make a bowl of cereal with milk for your dog either, as pooches don’t handle dairy and lactose very well, and it’ll just lead to an upset tummy and a grouchy pet.
Nevertheless, plainer cereal types can add a little fiber and roughage to your dog’s diet, but there are admittedly better ways of getting that into their systems.
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.