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Are Oats Good for Dogs? Here’s What the Science Says

Is there a more hearty way to start your morning than a bowl of oats? Rich, filling and packed with energy—they’re a powerful fuel to get you through the rest of your day. But it’s not just our own breakfast bowl where you’ll find oats.

Increasingly you find a healthy serving of oats in many commercial dog food recipes. On par with flaxseed for dogs, it's loved by pet parents as a complex grain that's gluten-free.

But are oats good for dogs? Is it safe for your dog to eat them daily? And if so, are there any benefits of oats for dogs?

To find out, we searched through academic journals and research studies, examining the science behind oats for dogs. We’ll explore what benefits you can expect, and how you should prepare oats for dogs in the healthiest way possible.

Can dogs eat oats?

In short: Yes. Dogs can and likely should eat oats as part of their diet. Contrary to a popular view that dogs are strict carnivores, they are actually more omnivorous in their wild diet than many think. 

Between their ancestral diet and their evolution alongside humans over the past 30,000 years, dogs can eat a wider range of foods than strict carnivores like cats.

But just because dogs can eat oats doesn’t mean they necessarily should. To understand that, we dove into the research.

We found that oats are a phenomenal source of fiber, fatty acids, vitamins and overall nutrition.

So why are oats good for dogs? Here are 5 key benefits:

Benefit #1: Better skin health

We’ve all heard of omega-3s. Especially if you subscribe to Yumwoof's blog! They’re the wonder ingredient found in oily fish. It’s said they boost memory and general health in dogs and people.

What about omega-6s?

Linoleic acid is one type of omega-6 fatty acid in oats. Taken regularly, linoleic acid produces a luxurious, healthy coat and skin. Researchers supplemented a dog’s diet with zinc and linoleic acid in one study. The results showed that dogs receiving linoleic acid saw significantly glossier coats. There was also less water loss through the skin—improving overall hydration [*].

When eaten in the right amounts daily, linoleic acid helps maintain the skin barrier, promotes wound healing and soothes inflammation [*].

Oats also contain B vitamins, which play a critical role in producing healthy skin cells [*]. Without a turnover of skin cells, wounds and rashes are far more likely.

Benefit #2: Lower cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is a vital part of your dog's body, helping produce horomones, vitamin D and substances involved in food digestion. But when it's consumed into too high amounts, it can clog arteries which in turn reduces blood flow to the heart. That means less oxygen, less energy and poor cardiac performance.

When looking at cholesterol, keep in mind it's a complex topic and not always caused by a dog’s diet. Metabolic and genetic health conditions can all contribute to high cholesterol levels. No matter what the cause, though, including oats in a dog's diet may be a viable solution to reducing cholesterol.

Oats are rich in beta-glucan, a fiber associated with improved heart health. Not just that, beta-glucans are anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, immune system promoting and completely safe to eat [*].

They seem to be a superfood all around, but it’s their effect on cholesterol that’s catching the attention of scientists.

Oats have previously been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in humans [*]. Now, another study in dogs observed similar findings. After eating oats for four weeks, dogs saw their cholesterol drop by 5% and LDL-cholesterol by 10% compared to a rice-based diet [*].

It’s a remarkable result! And just one more reason oats have been proven to be good for dogs.

Benefit #3: Aids digestions

One of the most common reasons we eat oats is a single ingredient: fiber. Fiber is a part of food that cannot be digested.

Sounds pointless? After all, the point of food is nutrition.

That’s true. However, fiber helps aid and support the digestive system. It feeds the helpful bacteria living in your dog’s gut. In turn, they take the fiber and convert it into short chain fatty acids—associated with an improved healthspan.

Fiber also adds bulk to your dog's stool to provide further digestive support. 

Oats are extremely high in fiber. Every cooked cup contains over 4 grams of fiber [*]. Research into oats for dogs’ digestion is limited. However, a study published in the Journal of Animal Science examined the use of fiber in dogs. Oats, in particular, maximize fermentation—helping the microorganism—without sacrificing any nutrient digestibility [*].

That means calmer stomachs with less constipation.

Benefit #4: Boosts immune system

Beta-glucans aren’t just beneficial for cholesterol. They also have proven immune-enhancing properties. An analysis of beta-glucans in four species—dogs, mice, piglets, and chicks—found different types of beta-glucans displayed different properties associated with better health [*].

One property was to upregulate the immune response. Levels of interleukin-2 (IL-2) were raised in response to beta-glucans. IL-2 promotes the growth, proliferation and differentiation of white blood cells. It forms the backbone of white blood cell production and is therefore critical to a healthy functioning immune system.

Taken together, oats can boost your immune system and help your heart with every spoonful.

Benefit #5: Phenomenal nutrient profile

Oats are rightfully considered a key staple food. While we have already talked about linoleic acid, fiber and beta-glucans, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Oats have an incredibly high nutritional value.

Inside you’ll find protein (up to 15%), complex carbs, fats and dietary fiber (up to 8.5%). Alongside these macronutrients, there is a complex mix of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds [*].

These vitamins and minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. All of these components are essential to canine health and add to how oats are good for dogs.

How to prepare oats for dogs?

According to the American Kennel Club, you can feed dogs up to one tablespoon (15 grams) of cooked oats for every 20 pounds (9 kg) of body weight.

But if you’re just starting: go slow. Sprinkle a little into their normal diet and see how they react. Excessive oat intake can lead to diarrhea, vomiting and/or bloating. These issues are rare, though, and more likely your dog won’t be able to get enough oats!

Keep in mind that oats on their own are not nutritionally complete and balanced for dogs according to AAFCO standards.

They are a high carb food that should be a relatively small part of your dog's diet. Yumwoof believes dogs should consume a low carb diet, keeping net carbs below 25% to avoid diabetes and other health issues.

You should not just feed a dog oats in any amount—they needs to be included in your dog's food at the right level to achieve an AAFCO complete and balanced diet.

The easiest way to feed your dog the right amount of oats is to find a dog food that already contains it as an ingredient. That way you don't have to use complicated software to balance your dog's diet. Here's a low carb dog food with cooked oats we recommend.

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