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Have you heard the “old wives tale” that feeding dogs bread can make their upset stomachs better? Well, this is one instance when the “old wives” know what they’re talking about… at least under certain circumstances.

Here are three situations when feeding bread to dogs can be helpful.

1. Your Dog Has Eaten Something with Sharp Points or Edges

Dogs like to chew on bones, but sometimes they go overboard and end up swallowing sharp shards. Dogs have also been known to eat needles, nails, skewers—you name it and a dog has probably tried to eat it. Sharp points and edges can do a lot of damage as they travel through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In the most severe cases, they can perforate the esophagus, stomach, or intestines, allowing the contents of the GI tract to spill into the surrounding body part. If the abdominal cavity becomes contaminated in this way, a potentially fatal condition called peritonitis will develop.

When dogs eat a large meal of bread after ingesting something sharp, the bread can encase the foreign material, allowing it to pass more safely through the GI tract. Bread can also help protect the esophagus from sharp bits if a dog eventually vomits or is given medicine to make him do so. Some people recommend white bread, others whole grain. I don’t think it matters. Whatever you have on hand will do.

2. Your Dog Has Eaten a Long Piece of String, Yarn, Thread, or Something Similar

Long pieces of string, yarn, thread, etc., go by the name “linear foreign bodies” in vet-speak. Often, one end of a linear foreign body will becoming anchored somewhere along the intestinal tract. When this happens, the peristaltic action of the intestines cause them to move their way up the string. The intestines become pleated like an accordion, which prevents them from working normally. Left untreated, linear foreign bodies can also cut through the intestinal wall, resulting in peritonitis.

A meal of bread after ingesting a linear foreign body can help the material wad up into a clump and pass through the GI tract.

3. Your Dog Has a Mild, Upset Tummy

I know I’ve experienced this. Sometimes I skip a meal, or maybe I eat something that doesn’t agree with me, but whatever the cause, my stomach reacts poorly and feels “acidy.” Eating a piece of bread can help. What’s going on? I suspect the bread acts like a sponge and traps whatever is irritating my stomach, allowing it to move further down the GI tract without causing more trouble. The same scenario appears to occur with dogs. If you think your dog’s stomach is just a bit off, feeding some bread may help.

Of course, bread is not a cure-all. If your dog vomits more than a couple of times, has profuse diarrhea, is in pain, or is very lethargic, skip the bread and head straight to the veterinary clinic.

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