Saltine crackers are such a common food item that most of us take them for granted. A box of crackers is sitting on many kitchen shelves, sometimes unopened for ages. They are good with soup, chili, or sometimes when you have an upset stomach. But are they okay for dogs? Can dogs eat saltine crackers?
Let’s find out if it’s safe for dogs to eat saltine crackers in our brief nutritional review.
Saltine cracker nutrition
As you probably guessed, saltine crackers (also known as soda crackers) are not the most nutritious food. Basic saltines are made from white flour, yeast, and baking soda with some salt sprinkled on top. They have a dry, crispy texture with perforations. You can buy unsalted or low-sodium crackers as well as crackers made from whole grains.
Original soda crackers appear to date from the early 19th century but it wasn’t until the 1870s that all of the ingredients came together to make the kind of saltine crackers we know today.
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 and they have transfat.
One cup of saltines (crushed) contains 295 calories. Five saltines contain about 60 calories.
With the yeast and enriched flour they do contain a good amount of vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. They also contain a lot of iron and manganese. So, the modest saltine is not quite as deficient in nutrients as you might think.
Saltines are a good low-fiber food for many people if they are struggling with diarrhea or an upset stomach. The contain carbohydrates and protein that are easy to digest. Saltines can also be good for digestion since they contain a little sodium bicarbonate.
Saltines can also be a good source for quick energy. And, saltines do not contain a load of preservatives, flavorings, or artificial colors like some other snacks.
In addition, since saltine crackers are low in fat, they are a better choice than most party-style crackers. Even dieters can benefit from them since they are low in calories and low in fat.
By the way, if you are buying whole grain saltines, make sure that the whole grain flour is the first ingredient. Otherwise there isn’t likely to be much whole grain in the product. If you want whole grain products, “whole grain” should be listed first. If you really want whole grain snacks, look for 100 percent whole grain snacks.
The bottom line for saltine crackers and nutrition is that they are a good staple to have on hand since they can help with an upset stomach. They can be good for people on a diet. And they are a better snack choice than most party-style crackers. However, they are not the most nutritious treat or snack you can eat because of their high salt content and transfat.
Can dogs have saltine crackers?
Realistically, saltine crackers are not a recommended treat for dogs. The high salt/sodium content can be a cause for concern, especially if your dog eats a lot of crackers. However, a lot of people, myself included, have dogs that just beg for a cracker when we are eating them. I’m guilty of giving my dogs a few saltines occasionally. (I have big dogs and I limit each dog to 3-4 crackers.)
Eating too many salty crackers could potentially lead to dehydration. In a worst case scenario, a dog that eats a lot of saltines could experience hypernatremia or an excess of sodium in the blood. Hypernatremia is not very common in healthy dogs but it is a possibility.
An occasional cracker shared with your dog should not be harmful but it’s not a good idea to make saltines a common snack for your dog.
How many saltine crackers can you give your dog?
A dog’s daily nutritional requirements depend on his age, weight, and other factors. A 30-pound dog requires about 100 mg of sodium per day. One saltine cracker contains 33.5 mg of sodium. Assuming that your dog’s food already contains all of the sodium (and other nutrients) that your dog needs each day, one cracker will put a 30-pound dog over his limit.
If you want to give your dog a couple of saltines, you should consider the amount of sodium in the crackers. You might want to buy some low-sodium or salt-free crackers to share with your dog. Splurging occasionally with a few crackers won’t hurt your dog but do be mindful of the sodium content.
On the other hand, if your dog eats an entire box of saltines call your veterinarian and ask for advice. That’s a tremendous amount of salt and your dog might become very dehydrated or poisoned from the excess sodium.
How often can you give your dog saltine crackers?
Again, due to the salt/sodium in saltines, it’s best not to give your dog these crackers on a regular basis. Depending on your dog’s size, giving him a cracker once or twice per week would be acceptable for most dogs. Giving saltines more often might raise your dog’s sodium levels and upset your dog’s electrolyte balance.
Lots of dogs love saltine crackers as much as we do. Saltines are not the worst snack in the world but the high salt/sodium content means that your dog shouldn’t eat many of them or eat them very often. If your dog really loves crackers, try buying some salt-free or low-sodium crackers instead of traditional saltines.