Written by Ella White
One of the healthiest human breakfasts is oatmeal. It’s filling enough to keep your appetite at bay all morning, it’s low in fat and cholesterol, and it’s full of fiber that keeps your stomach full as it aids the good bacteria in the digestive tract.
Because of these digestive benefits, oatmeal also has a reputation as being a good food to eat when you’re suffering with an upset stomach. So, if you’ve wondered whether oatmeal is also good for dogs with diarrhea, we don’t blame you.
Seeing our furry friends in need can be almost as distressing for us as it is for them. And it’s natural to consider whether some of the remedies that we know work for us, will also work for them. In this article, we’ll look at whether dogs can eat oatmeal, whether oatmeal helps dogs with diarrhea, and other ways to help dogs with upset stomachs.
Oats are a common ingredient in dog foods so the answer to ‘can dogs eat oatmeal’ is, essentially ‘yes’. However, many of the ingredients that humans prepare their oatmeal with are hard for dogs to digest, and could even be toxic.
Oats are a good option for dogs that are intolerant of wheat and grains, as they are easy to digest, and are bland enough to prevent any further stomach issues from arising. They’re also rich in fatty acids and vitamins that help promote healthy skin and coat.
So if you’re preparing oatmeal for dogs – as a snack or as an aid to their upset stomach – make sure it’s served at room temperature and has been cooked in water rather than milk, and has no sugar, flavorings, or dried fruits like raisins added to the mix. These will only make their diarrhea worse and in some cases might even end in a trip to the vets.
This might sound like a bland way for us to eat oats, but don’t forget, your dog doesn’t have anywhere near the tastebuds you do. They won’t care that it’s cooked in water and they certainly won’t miss the sugar.
Because oats are rich in protein and fiber, they can help dogs with diarrhea in a number of ways. Firstly, protein helps restore energy. Secondly, fiber absorbs liquid in the digestive tract to help keep stools firm and healthy.
When your dog is sick, it can be hard to feed them enough, and even harder for them to keep what they do eat down. Because plain oats are so easy to digest, they’re a good way to help your dog ingest some of the vitamins and minerals they need without making their condition worse.
It’s recommended that you only serve human foods to your dog as a substitute to a rounded and healthy diet designed to give them all the protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need. So in general, a couple of tablespoons of plain, room-temperature oatmeal is enough to help them reap the benefits without any negative side effects.
However, if you’re feeding your dog oatmeal as a plain, digestible option to help ease their diarrhea, a rule of thumb advised by vets is to opt for one tablespoon for every 20 lbs they weigh. This should be enough for them to digest easily without causing bloating or other issues.
If your dog has never eaten oats before, or if you know they are prone to food allergies – especially grains – then it’s advised that you do not feed your dog oatmeal for the first time as a remedy to illness. This is because an unexpected allergic reaction could make their condition much worse.
If you’re not sure about feeding your dog oatmeal, ask your trusted vet for recommendations.
As with any home remedy, there are always potential side effects:
If your oatmeal is made with sodium or salt, xylitol as a sweetener, grapes or raisins, blueberries, chocolate, or cinnamon, then these ingredients can worsen your dog's sickness and even lead to a new case of food poisoning.
It’s important to only feed dogs 100% plain oats cooked in water, not milk, for easy digestion without the risk of food poisoning.
Although oatmeal is a good alternative for dogs with sensitivities to wheat, grains, and other allergens, that’s not to say that your dog can’t be allergic to oats too. If you’ve fed your dog oatmeal before and noticed that they are gassier than usual, appear to be itchy or hyperactive, scratching more frequently and appear uncomfortable, or have any changes to their poops then they might be allergic.
Even if their allergic reaction is a mild one, it can exacerbate the symptoms of diarrhea rather than soothe them, so should not be fed to dogs as a remedy for an upset stomach.
Feeding dogs fiber to cure their diarrhea is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it absorbs liquid in the gut to help create firmer stools and in turn ease their diarrhea. However, too much fiber can cause gas to build up in their stomach, leading to bloating.
Bloating due to gas is uncomfortable, as most humans know. But dogs can also develop a condition called bloat, whereby their stomach swells and moves within their bodies. Bloat can be deadly in dogs. Find out more about the illness and how to avoid it here.
If you prepare your oatmeal with milk, and your dog is lactose intolerant, then their diarrhea is about to get much worse. In fact, because milk is hard for all dogs to digest, even those without a lactose intolerance probably won’t have their upset stomach soothed by oatmeal made with dairy products.
For this reason, be sure to always prepare your dog their own portion of oatmeal made with water and nothing else – and resist giving them a lick of your creamy breakfast off your spoon.
Another possible side effect of the fiber in oatmeal is constipation. At first, this might seem like a win as it will stop the diarrhea, which was your first problem. But in reality, constipation isn’t the solution to diarrhea – it's a new problem in itself.
The main problem with constipation right after diarrhea is that it could mean there is unpassed stool from their sickness still stuck in your dog’s gut. This can lead to bacterial infections and a condition called megacolon, which can be fatal.
If your dog develops constipation after diarrhea, the best course of action is to seek a vet. Avoid giving them any laxative foods or medications that might cause the diarrhea to return, unless your vet prescribes it.
If you’re concerned about the risks of feeding your dog oatmeal, or if you know they have an allergy, there are some other foods that can help soothe an upset stomach as long as they are served in a dog-friendly way with no additional seasonings or ingredients.