Sometimes, the most benigh looking things can be toxic! Raw bread dough made with yeast poses a real threat to our furry dog friends. When ingested, rising dough can cause mechanical and biochemical hazards to our pets. Sometimes, the results can even be fatal!
Why is Bread Dough Toxic?
The warm, moist environment of the stomach serves as an efficient incubator for the replication of yeast within the dough. As the dough expands, it stretches the stomach to the point where the blood supply to the walls of the stomach may be compromised. This leads to severe abdominal pain, and the wall of the stomach may become non-viable from lack of blood flow. The expanding stomach, also puts pressure on the diaphragm and prevents normal respiration. The yeast fermentation process forms ethanol (alcohol), which is absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in inebriation and acidification of the blood.
Early clinical signs may include unproductive attempts at vomiting, abdominal distention, and depression. As ethanol intoxication develops, the animal becomes depressed and disoriented. Eventually, profound central nervous system depression, reduced respiration, weakness, recumbency, coma, hypothermia, or seizures may be seen. Death is usually due to the effects of the alcohol rather than from gastric distention; however, the potential for dough to trigger gastric dilatation/volvulus in susceptible dog breeds is possible.
A presumptive diagnosis can be based on history of exposure and symptoms. Blood ethanol levels are consistently increased in cases of bread dough toxicosis. Differential diagnoses include gastric dilatation/volvulus, foreign body obstruction, ethylene glycol toxicosis, and ingestion of other CNS depressants (eg, benzodiazepines or other drugs).
With recent ingestions in asymptomatic animals, we can try to induce vomiting, although the glutinous nature of bread dough may make removal via emesis difficult. In animals in which emesis (whether induced or spontaneous) has been unsuccessful, gastric lavage may be attempted. Cold water introduced into the stomach may slow the rate of yeast fermentation and aid in dough removal. In some cases, surgical removal of the dough mass may be required.
Animals presenting with signs of alcohol toxicosis should be stabilized and any life-threatening conditions corrected before attempts to remove the dough are made. Alcohol toxicosis is managed by correcting acid-base abnormalities, managing cardiac arrhythmias as needed, and maintaining normal body temperature.
If left untreated, bread dough toxicity may be fatal, especially in smaller dogs. With treatment, the prognosis is good providing treatment is initiated early in the course of the intoxication.