Normally, when people think of flour they think of the white flour that’s so widely available. Wheat flour is very common but it’s certainly not the only kind of flour available today. If you’re wondering if dogs can eat flour, it depends on your dog and the kind of flour. It can be a complicated question.
It’s hard to believe that flour didn’t always exist but it had to be invented. Wheat flour dates back to about 6000 BC in Mesopotamia. Humans may have eaten grass seeds before that time but it was only after they had discovered that raw grains and other seeds could be crushed that flour came into existence. This led to making bread, a food staple for many cultures. (The very first grains may have been gathered and used for making beer.)
Different parts of the world have relied on different kinds of grains and seeds to make flour. Cereal grains, such as wheat, were prominent in the Middle East. Corn flour was an important food stable in the Americas. Rye flour was used to make bread in central and northern Europe.
Flour made from cereal grains such as wheat can be whole grain flour or refined flour. Whole grain flour contains the endosperm, germ, and bran portions of the grain. Refined flour removes parts of the grain and keeps the endosperm.
Not all flours are made from cereal grains. Flour can also be made from seeds (almond, coconut, flaxseed), nuts (acorn, hazelnut flours), beans (chickpea flour), and roots (cassava flour, tapioca).
Lots of plants are used to make flours and other foods. It can be confusing to try to categorize them. USDA provides some helpful information https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/ethnobotany/food/grains.shtml.
Different flours can have different nutrients. Since wheat flour is so common today, we’ll look at the nutrition it provides.
“Wheat flour, white, all-purpose, enriched, bleached” can be found in virtually any supermarket. It’s commonly used to make things like pancakes, muffins, cookies, and cakes. It can be used in any recipe that calls for plain, ordinary flour. It’s not necessarily the most nutritious flour but it is very easy to find. If you are buying plain white bread to make your morning toast or some French toast, it’s probably made from this kind of flour.
This kind of white wheat flour is refined with a chemical whitening or bleaching agent that’s added. The germ and bran have been removed. That means that much of the nutritional fiber and vitamins are missing. The bleaching agent affects the natural carotenoids in the flour that are responsible for the color. The gluten development is also affected.
Since nutrients are lost while making flour, especially during bleaching, white flour is enriched with added nutrients.
All purpose flour has a medium gluten content. It’s suitable for things like bread, pizza, biscuits and other foods. However, for bakers who specialize in these foods, there are flours with better gluten content. Bread bakers often prefer a flour that has a higher gluten and protein content. This higher gluten content makes the bread rise more. The bread is chewier.
All-purpose white, enriched, bleached, wheat flour has 87 percent carbohydrates, 2 percent fats, and 11 percent protein. It has a glycemic load of 66. It’s a good source of thiamin, folate, and selenium. It is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
One cup (125 grams) of this flour contains 455 calories with 95.4 grams of carbs and 3.4 grams of fiber. This serving has 1.2 grams of fat and 12.9 grams of protein.
Along with thiamin, folate, and selenium, this flour is a good source of riboflavin, niacin, iron, phosphate, and manganese.
All purpose flour may not be the most nutrient-rich of the flours but it’s far from being deficient in nutrients. It’s low in fat, low in sodium, and sugar-free. It’s also a good source of fiber.
There are lots of other kinds of popular flours. Here are a few with some comparisons:
- Whole wheat flour: 408 calories per cup, 16 grams of protein, 86 grams of carbohydrate, 13 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of fat.
- Almond flour: 640 calories per cup, 24 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbohydrate, 12 grams of fiber and 56 grams of fat.
- Semolina: 601 calories per cup, 21 grams of protein, 122 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fiber and 1.8 grams of fat.
- White cake flour: 496 calories per cup, 11 grams of protein, 107 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber and one gram of fat.
If you’re trying to choose between all-purpose white flour and whole wheat flour, most people recommend the whole wheat flour. Even for dog cookies and treats, whole wheat flour can be a better choice – unless your dog has a wheat allergy. All-purpose flour and whole wheat flour is not extremely different until you look at the fiber. One cup of all-purpose flour has about 3 grams of fiber while one cup of whole grain wheat flour has 13 grams of fiber. Dietary fiber doesn’t provide energy but the soluble fiber helps keep the blood sugar levels balanced. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to food and helps prevent constipation.
Should You Give Your Dog Flour?
We don’t recommend giving your dog a cup of flour to eat but as far as giving your dog foods that include flour, yes, dogs can generally eat flour. Most dog foods contain some kind of flour. So do dog cookies and treats.
However, whether you give your dog a food containing flour does depend on your individual dog and the kind of flour you’re considering.
For example, if you know that your dog has a wheat allergy, don’t give him foods that include wheat flour. If your dog is allergic to corn, avoid giving him foods that contain corn flour or corn meal.
Dogs that you intend to breed, whether male or female, should avoid soy flours. Soy products have phytoestrogens which can mimic estrogens in the body. They have been known to adversely affect a dog’s reproductive system. This could lead to some infertility or difficulty conceiving. Phytoestrogens may also affect dogs with thyroid issues. And, some dogs are allergic to soy. There can be situations where your vet prescribes a food that contains soy. In these situations, listen to your vet. Follow his or her recommendations. Otherwise, we suggest that you try to avoid soy flours.
There are lots of different kinds of flours. In most cases it should be all right to use different flours in foods for your dog as long as s/he is not known to be allergic to them. Your dog probably already eats many kinds of flours that you don’t even know about. If you’re not sure, read the ingredients on the dog foods and treats you buy. You might be surprised by some of the flours you find included. Sorghum, buckwheat, teff, quinoa, rice flour, brown rice flour, cassava, potato flour, and tapioca are all flours that are used in dog foods today, for example. You can certainly use some of these flours if you are making homemade dog treats for your dog or if you are mixing a meal for your dog.
What about Flours and Allergies?
In the quest to use new ingredients, some dog food companies are using “ancient grains” today. These grains are perfectly fine. Cereals and grains (in powdered form) such as quinoa, millet, spelt, and sorghum really have been used for a very long time. Some dogs will do well with the flours of these cereals and grains in their food.
You do need to be mindful that these cereals and grains are not wonder foods. For example, if your dog (or you) is allergic to wheat, he may also be allergic to spelt, kamut, couscous, and triticale which are closely related to wheat. Oats can also sometimes be a problem for a dog (or person) that is allergic to wheat. Oats are not closely related to wheat but there can be cross-contamination.
If you are exploring various flours because your dog has food allergies, proceed carefully. Sometimes you won’t know if a particular flour or food works for your dog until he tries it for several weeks. If your dog does have an allergy to wheat, you may need to avoid the flours from cereals and grains that are closely related to wheat.
What about Different Kinds of Flour?
Some flours do a better job of holding ingredients together than others. This is often because of the substance known as gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). It’s responsible for the elastic texture of dough. When gluten is heated the proteins make an elastic network to allow for the greatest rising and moisture in breads, pasta, and similar foods. Glutens do not pose any health risk to the majority of humans (or dogs).
Unfortunately, food producers, including pet food companies, and pet food owners, have expanded the meaning of glutens to refer to any kind of grain but not all cereals and grains contain glutens. Terms like “corn gluten” appear on labels, for example. Corn doesn’t technically have gluten in the same way that wheat does. It’s an industry term. If you have any doubts, consider the difference between a loaf of bread and a pan of cornbread. The texture is completely different. Glutens give the bread an elastic feel. Corn, which doesn’t have glutens, makes the cornbread crumbly. Even a cake made with wheat flour sticks together more than a cornbread.
Other flours which don’t come from cereals or grains are also lacking in glutens. They can also be more difficult to hold together in a recipe. These flours can include quinoa, almond flour, rice flour, and brown rice flour, for example. These recipes will need other ingredients to help hold the ingredients together such as eggs.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Flour?
As long as your dog isn’t allergic to a certain kind of flour, it should be safe to let your dog have flour every day. Most of us give our dogs flour in the form of dog food on a daily basis.
Again, we don’t recommend that you give your dog flour alone to eat. But flour is a normal part of many foods today for both humans and dogs.
Flour has been around for thousands of years. Wheat flour is most popular in North America. It’s widely used in dog foods and in making dog treats. Most dogs can consume it without any problems. However, there are many other kinds of flours. If your dog has a wheat allergy, try to avoid flours that are related to wheat such as spelt, kamut, triticale, and couscous. Your dog could be allergic to these cereals/grains as well. Whole grain flours are usually considered to be healthier than other flours but there are lots of flours you might want to try. Flours can be made from seeds, nuts, roots, cereals/grains, and other things.