Guilty pleasure snacks like pretzels always prove popular, be they the small, hard and salted kind or the larger, more traditionally American soft baked and flavoured kind.
But of course, anything we are trying to eat and enjoy is always going to be of interest to our dogs.
More than this, our faithful pets have a cute way of trying to look hungry and innocent to try and get a bite of what we’re eating.
Because of that, you may well wonder – can dogs eat pretzels? Let’s look into this some more.
Are pretzels good for dogs?
In terms of the short version of events, the answer to if dogs can eat pretzels is a little complex – in short, yes they can, but really rather shouldn’t.
What seems like quite the innocent snack to dogs’ human masters has next to no nutrition to offer pooches themselves, beyond some tasty flavour and interesting texture of course.
Dogs aren’t like people, certainly not as far as how their digestive systems work are concerned.
Because we welcome dogs into our homes and our families so readily, it’s all too easy to forget that dogs simply can’t eat, digest and enjoy as many things as we human beings do.
The good news is that, unless they expressly have some kind of garlic or onion content – or nutmeg or chocolate coating, for sweeter ones – pretzels are not toxic to dogs.
In fact, by and large, the plainer the pretzel, the better it is for your dog – although you’re only reducing health risks from them rather than adding any meaningful nutritional value.
The reason why so many people recommend against dogs eating pretzels, certainly in large volumes, is due to the salt content found within and often coating them.
Salt is treated as something that adds to the flavour and appeal of certain foods to us, yet it’s that same habit the world over that strikes so many things we eat off the dog’s menu.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s natural rather than processed, baked or otherwise manufactured foods that are better for your dogs to eat.
That said, you’re certainly not going to bring your pooch to any harm if you happen to toss a little hard baked pretzel his or her way, providing it doesn’t have any of the flavours or ingredients we talked about as being toxic.
However, when it comes to treats for your dog, it’s best to avoid pretzels and think up something more wholesome if you’re looking for regular reward snacks or incentives for good behaviour.
No matter how much your dog might enjoy pretzels, eating them as treats in this way is likely taking things too far.
Dangers of pretzels for dogs
Many of the risks of giving pretzels to your dog, be those big, soft baked pretzels or the smaller, snack bag style hard baked pretzels you find in stores, come from the flavours they’re often paired with.
After all, these are snacked designed to be eaten and enjoyed by people, and because of that, there’s often very little reason to want to give your dog one.
What’s more, many of the ingredients that pretzels are made with can be dangerous to your dog’s health, if not poisonous outright.
However, the main culprit that really steers dog owners away from giving pretzels to their dog regularly is salt.
Salt tolerance in dogs varies by their size, by their breed, by their age, and even by whether or not the pooch in question has eaten much salty food before.
Some canines will throw up the moment they eat anything salty, and others will happily gobble down whatever and seemingly do themselves no harm – at least at first.
Salt and sodium in dogs are dangerous because it can affect, and ultimately unbalance, the way in which your pooch gains hydration.
Even a smidgen of salt, as found on just one or two hard baked pretzels handed over alongside a ruffle behind the ears for being good, can make your dog gaspingly thirsty for the rest of the day.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. If your dog is left to eat pretzels in big amounts, or finds that they become a regular part of their dining habits, real risks of sodium poisoning become apparent in your pet.
This occurs when there’s simply more salt, and therefore dehydration, in your dog’s system than there is enough water to react to it.
Your dog’s bodily systems react by trying to expel the water within them to balance out the sodium levels present in the bloodstream.
As you might imagine, excessive going to the toilet from your pet is disastrous when they’re dehydrated from salt to begin with, leading to serious harm, and even neurological damage in the long run.
This is all because your dog simply doesn’t have the means within themselves to effectively digest salt and deal with its side effects.
Remember, it’s not just pretzels that can be the blame here – it’s anything salty that your dog has eaten for a long time that’s starting to seriously affect how he or she functions day to day.
How many pretzels can a dog eat daily?
Assuming we are discussing smaller, hard baked pretzels that are easier to toss out like little treats, it’s wise to not give more than one a day to your pet if you’re doing so daily – even less if you’re enquiring about a puppy or a small breed of dog.
Hopefully, it goes without saying that you ought not be giving pretzels to your dog regularly – even if you’re baking them at home and being extra careful about the ingredients.
After all, these snacks also contain plenty of carbohydrates, and those can build up in your dog’s system long term with as much nastiness as salt can.
Dogs are not very good at processing carbs, and they often end up converting lots of it into fat that can lead to long term weight gain.
As you might imagine, weight gain in dogs is often a stepping stone to even greater risks and detrimental health, including diabetes.
Certainly, have lots of fresh water ready and available for your pup when he or she has been eating pretzels – especially if this is the first time he or she has tried them.
Experiencing new foods can often be a frustrating, or at least surprising, time for your pet, and you want to make sure there’s everything they need to adjust close at hand.
What to do if your dog eats pretzels
Whether it’s a big spilled bag that’s scattered snacks all over the kitchen floor, or a big soft baked treat being handed over to your dog by a well-meaning relative at the family picnic, there are lots of reasons why your dog might eat pretzels without your permission or knowledge.
This is an emergency situation, at least potentially, only if onions and garlic are involved in the flavouring of those pretzels – or if they’re the more novelty chocolate variety.
In these situations, definitely contact your vet and see what advice you’re given.
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.
You ought to do this if your dog has eaten a lot of pretzels anyway, especially young dogs, puppies, and smaller dog breeds.
That’s because the salt on those pretzels, when all eaten at once like that, can cause some pretty nasty side effects.
Those aren’t just limited to stomach aches or throwing up, either – your dog’s tongue could get swollen, he or she could feel endlessly thirsty, or there may even be signs of dizziness, disorientation, and nausea.
Your vet will likely want to examine your dog if these symptoms persist too, and keep in mind it could take a few days for your dog to make a full recovery in these cases.
However, it’s also likely that your dog could be fine and dandy – but definitely don’t look to make your pet stealing pretzels into a habit either way.
Pretzels as a general rule are neutral enough for dogs to eat – they don’t do your dog any harm by and large, if fed in small amounts, and they don’t add any nutrition to your pet’s meals either.
Nevertheless, it’s the flavourings that pretzels of all shapes and sizes are never without that really have the greatest risk to your dog.
Those risks include highly toxic examples, like coating of garlic dust or onion powder, as well as less severe but still nasty problems that can come from salt.
This is often the real culprit, and a surprisingly sneaky one at that, as the symptoms of thirst and general uneasiness it makes your dog feel are far less easy to notice unless you really know what to look for.
It’s this reason that vets and experts recommend other treats for dogs instead of pretzels – although if your dog happens to swipe one out of nowhere, it’s not going to be a big deal.