Delightfully crunchy, nutty, and packed with many nutritious ingredients, granola is a popular breakfast cereal and snack bar that you might be tempted to share with your dog now and then. After all, it's sold in many health food stores and many commercial granolas are made with toasted whole grain oats, puffed rice, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit; all pretty healthy-sounding.
But it's all stuck together with sugar, which is not good for your dog. While sugar may not be immediately toxic to dogs, pet parents should avoid sugary treats for their dogs. And all that fiber can upset your dog's stomach.
Also, some brands of granola contain Xylitol artificial sweetener, raisins, or chocolate, all of which are extremely toxic, and even potentially life-threatening to dogs. The deadly three can be found individually or all together in many granolas.
The bottom line: it's best to skip granola as a regular treat for your dog and avoid unpleasant side effects, or worse, a veterinary emergency.
Where does granola come from?
Merriam-Webster's definition of granola is "a mixture typically of rolled oats and various added ingredients such as brown sugar, raisins, coconut, and nuts that is eaten especially for breakfast or as a snack."
Granola's history dates back to the 1800s when Sylvester Graham developed his eponymous Graham flour and Graham Crackers. The Graham flour was later used in a batter developed by Dr. James C. Jackson for sheets that were baked, broken up, rebaked, and broken up again, a recipe he called "Granula." Then Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a Seventh Day Adventist and director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, developed a mix of baked and rebaked whole grains, and also called it "Granula," for which he was promptly sued by Dr. Jackson; he subsequently renamed it Granola but failed to market the product and it never became successful.
The next entrepreneur to take a stab at success with the crunchy cereal was Charles W. Post, a patient in the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and later Kellog's competitor, who when he left the sanitarium (uncured), found a cure elsewhere and opened up his own health retreat. Then he borrowed the Granola recipe, and called it Grape Nuts, which became hugely successful, and still is today.
In the 1960s, the name Granola was revived and became a "hippie" health food. Today, granola in myriad iterations are a mainstream morning cereal and trail snack for people, but granola is not meant for canine consumption.
Can dogs eat granola?
No, dogs should not eat granola, but if your dog should steal a small piece of a granola bar, as long as it does not contain raisins, chocolate, macadamia nuts, or the artificial sweetener Xylitol, it should not be a problem. Avoid intentionally feeding granola when there are so many treat alternatives that are safe for your dog to eat.
If you want to give your dog the granola experience, you can whip up a crunchy homemade peanut butter/granola dog cookie or satisfy his sweet tooth naturally with some blueberries, baby carrots, watermelon, or apple.
Raisins, Xylitol (an artificial sweetener), chocolate, and macadamia nuts are extremely toxic to dogs and, with the exception of macadamia nuts, often found in commercial granolas. Never feed your dog anything with any one of these four ingredients, no matter how small an amount. If in doubt about an ingredient in your granola that may be harmful to your dog, check out our list of everything dogs can and cannot eat.
What are the concerns with feeding granola to dogs?
Granola is not designed for dogs to eat and is not beneficial for them, and it could actually be harmful if fed regularly or in a large enough quantity. Here are a few of the reasons that granola should be avoided:
High fiber levels
Granola is full of fiber, which is a good thing in many ways for people, but dogs may be adversely affected by eating fiber-rich foods. The results of too much fiber intake for dogs is diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.
High sugar levels
Sugar and its derivatives and/or "cousins"; anhydrous dextrose, corn syrup solids, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, nectars, sucrose and more should not be on your dog's menu, whether in granola or any other sweet treat designed for people to eat. When dogs consume too much sugar in the long-term, it can lead to excess weight gain, cavities and oral infections, metabolic issues, and even diabetes.
Commercial granolas often contain canola oil, a refined fat that is not good for dogs. Also, nuts like almonds and walnuts are not toxic to dogs, but they are especially high in fat. And while you may not find macadamia nuts in many granolas, keep in mind these nuts are highly toxic to dogs.
Toxic ingredients alert
Some granolas are made with Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Granola also commonly contains raisins, again highly toxic to dogs, and many granola bars are drizzled with chocolate, a well-known toxin for dogs. Additionally, although many nuts are not toxic to dogs, macadamia nuts are.
Choking and blockage hazard
The way many dogs wolf down their food, granola could well present a choking hazard, particularly from chunks and small pieces of nuts like walnuts and almonds, and tiny seeds like sunflower seeds. Also, too many nuts and seeds can create a blockage or obstruction that needs immediate veterinary intervention.
No, dogs should not eat granola. But as long as it does not contain raisins, Xylitol, chocolate, or macadamia nuts, all of which are extremely toxic to dogs, a small amount of granola will not pose an immediate health risk. However, it's best to feed alternative sweet treats that are safe and nutritious for your dog.
In addition to avoiding toxic ingredients found in many granolas, you should not feed granola to your dog due to its high concentration of sugar, high fiber and fat content, and choking and blockage hazard from nuts and seeds.
For alternative treat ideas, check out our list of everything dogs can and cannot eat.