It’s a rare dog that doesn’t like crackers. And there are so many different kinds of crackers! Are they all safe for you to share with your dog or are some of them dangerous? In short, can dogs eat crackers or not?
What you need to know about crackers
There are many kinds of crackers today. People enjoy saltines, crackers with seeds such as pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, crackers with herbs, and crackers with sweet ingredients. Cheese crackers are another specialty cracker that get raves.
Most dogs are not too picky when it comes to crackers. If you could ask your dog, he might say that your crackers are very similar to his dog biscuits. Your dog doesn’t care. They are crispy/crunchy, tasty, and bite-sized.
As far as dogs are concerned, most crackers are fairly low in nutritional value. Basic crackers are made from white flour, yeast, and baking soda with some salt on top. Most crackers start with the same basic recipe and add their own twist to it.
These ingredients are not harmful to dogs in small amounts. Plain crackers can be good for people who are having stomach or digestive problems. Plus, most crackers don’t contain lots of preservatives, flavorings, or artificial colors like some foods. However, wheat flour and too much sodium can present problems for dogs if they eat too much of these ingredients.
The real problem with some crackers comes with their specific ingredients that might not be safe for dogs. Any crackers that are made with garlic, onion, or other ingredients that could be harmful to dogs should be avoided. That includes crackers that might be made with garlic or onion powders.
Let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of crackers and find out if they are safe for dogs.
Saltines or soda crackers
Mention crackers and many people think of saltines or soda crackers. These basic crackers are very popular. You can eat them with everything from soup and chili to hors d’oeuvres. Regular saltines are high in sodium due to the salt content. However, you can buy soda crackers that are slightly healthier if they are low-sodium or made from whole grains.
If you’re wondering, original soda crackers only date from the early 19th century. Even so, it was only in the 1870s that the kind of saltines we know today appeared
In terms of nutrition, saltines contain 9 percent protein, 18 percent fat, and 73 percent carbohydrates. They are very low in cholesterol. However, they are high in sodium. They are low in fiber and they are easy to digest.
One cup of saltines (crushed) contains 295 calories. Five saltines contain about 60 calories.
Since soda crackers are low in calories and fat, they are a good choice for dieters.
You can safely share one or two saltines with your dog but they typically contain too much sodium to let your dog have more.
Crackers with seeds
In general, crackers with seeds are safe for dogs – in small amounts. They are still crackers even if the seeds are safe for dogs. That means they are usually made with flour and salt. The seeds may boast some kind of health benefit but they are usually only added in a very small amount. There probably aren’t enough seeds on any cracker to really improve your dog’s health.
You should remember that seeds, like nuts, are fattening. This means that crackers that contain seeds will likely be higher in calories than plain crackers. You might be surprised to learn that safe raw seeds are a recommended addition to the diet for dogs that eat raw food.
Here are some seeds that are safe for dogs to eat:
Crackers that feature these seeds should be safe for your dog to eat in small amounts as long as they don’t contain any harmful ingredients.
Just to be safe, you should assume that fruit seeds are not safe for your dog to eat. There are exceptions but it’s easier to avoid them.
Crackers with herbs and spices
Eating crackers with herbs and spices is another popular way to enjoy a snack. All kinds of herbs are used to flavor crackers such as rosemary, garlic, and other flavors. Steer clear of crackers that are labeled that they use garlic or onion. However, many crackers use terms such as “Italian” herbs or “savory” herbs. In that case, you need to read the ingredients.
We found one kind of cracker that was labeled “Mediterranean” herbs. Here are the ingredients:
Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, vitamin B1 [thiamin mononitrate], vitamin B2 [riboflavin], folic acid), soybean oil (with TBHQ for freshness), rice flour, sugar, oat fiber.Contains 2% or less of sea salt, whey, yeast, tomato powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, dextrose, natural flavor, citric acid, spice, corn syrup solids, turmeric extract color, annatto extract color, soy lecithin.
We could pick out a lot of things here but the garlic powder and onion powder are good reasons to avoid these crackers for your dog.
Some crackers are also labeled “organic,” “gluten-free,” or they use other terms that might sound very healthy. It’s a good idea to read the ingredients just to make sure they don’t use an item that could be harmful to your dog.
Crackers with sweet ingredients
Crackers made with sweet ingredients are moving close to cookie territory but they are still called crackers. Some of the most popular crackers in this category include graham crackers and peanut butter crackers. (Of course, you can also find recipes online that use regular crackers to make sweet desserts.)
You can share a graham cracker or a peanut butter cracker with your dog but, as you might expect, these are not the healthiest snacks. One large graham cracker rectangle contains 65 calories. It has 1.6 grams of total fat, 69 mg of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0.5 grams of dietary fiber, and 1 gram of protein. That works out to 6 percent protein, 21 percent fat, and 73 percent carbohydrates. This is similar to saltines. However, that large rectangle contains 4 percent sodium or 84.7 mg of sodium. Graham crackers are much lower in sodium than saltines.
So, a bite of graham cracker should be safe for your dog but don’t overdo it.
If you buy peanut butter crackers and intend to share them with your dog, make sure that they do not contain the artificial sweetener xylitol which is toxic to dogs. It is sometimes called “birch sugar.”
Crackers made from alternative flours
If you have problems with wheat or if you have scanned the cracker aisle at the grocery store, you likely know that crackers today are also made from non-wheat flours. Some dogs are sensitive to wheat or they have issues with gluten.
We’re not advocating that you give your dog crackers of any kind on a regular basis but if you do want to share crackers with your dog, you have some options.
There are an enormous number of flours easily available today and many of them are used to make dog treats as well as crackers for humans. Some of the flours you might see in your local grocery store include:
- Whole wheat flour – popular, always easy to find
- Almond flour
- Brown rice flour
- Buckwheat flour
- Chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
- Coconut flour
- Oat flour
- Quinoa flour
- Sorghum flour
If you are interested in gluten-free crackers, they are probably made from one of the flours listed here.
Remember to check the ingredients before sharing any human food with your dog.
Before sharing a cracker of any kind with your dog, stop and consider whether it has any toppings that could be bad for your dog. Some of us (myself included) like a piece of cheese or some dip on a cracker. But not all toppings are safe for dogs.
If you have guacamole, salsa, cocktail sauce, or any kind of topping that might contain ingredients that could be harmful to your dog, put the cracker back. Even simple hummus is usually a no for dogs because it is made with garlic. Only share safe crackers without any toppings that could be dangerous to your dog.
Can dogs have crackers?
The short answer is yes. With most crackers, dogs can have one or two small pieces.
You do need to use caution. Some crackers contain ingredients that can be harmful to your dog. Plus, some crackers are high in salt which is not good for dogs. Always check the ingredients before sharing any crackers with your dog.
Eating too many salty crackers could potentially lead to dehydration. In a worst case scenario, a dog that eats a lot of salty crackers could experience hypernatremia or an excess of sodium in the blood. Hypernatremia is not very common in healthy dogs but it is possible.
How many crackers can you give your dog?
Because of the salt content in many crackers, it’s best not to give your dog more than 1-2 crackers.
Dogs can also get in the habit of expecting crackers as treats. There are many treats and snacks that are healthier for your dog. You can either buy healthy treats, make them yourself, or give your dog some pieces of cut up fruit and vegetables such as slices of apple, banana, or small pieces of carrot.
How often can you give your dog saltine crackers?
Due to the salt/sodium in saltines, it’s best not to give your dog crackers on a regular basis. Depending on your dog’s size, giving him a couple of crackers once or twice per week would be safe for most dogs. Giving saltines more often might raise your dog’s sodium levels and upset your dog’s electrolyte balance.
Please talk to your veterinarian about giving your dog crackers as more than an occasional treat.
Dogs usually want to eat what they see us eating so it’s not surprising if your dog begs you for crackers. It is usually safe to share 1-2 crackers with your dog as long as you read the ingredients and make sure they don’t contain any potentially harmful ingredients. It’s not a good idea to let your dog eat too many crackers or to give them to him too often.