Pretty much everyone knows that sheep eat grass. They are grazing animals, after all, and ruminants.
However, owners know they eat a lot more than just grass, including other kinds of roughage, hay, and produce. Turns out they eat quite a bit of plant matter.
But can sheep eat grains? If they can, maybe they can eat bread. So, can sheep eat bread?
No, sheep should not eat bread. Sheep can eat bread in very limited quantities but it is definitely bad for them, pure junk food. Ingesting grains can lead to serious problems for sheep, including grain poisoning, peritonitis, and diarrhea.
Bread should only be given to sheep very sparingly as a rare treat or when you have absolutely no other options for food.
Most people think that pretty much every animal alive can have a few bread crumbs, but only a few mammals are adapted to eat grains regularly without ill effects. Sheep are not one of them.
Keep reading to learn all about the problems that bread can cause for your sheep if they eat it.
Sheep Really Should Not Have Bread
While sheep may enjoy the taste of bread, it is not a nutritious food for them and can actually cause health problems.
In reality, bread is bad for sheep and can cause a number of health problems.
For one, bread is high in carbohydrates and fat, which can lead to obesity in sheep.
Additionally, the yeast in bread can cause stomach upset and digestive tract diseases. Sheep also have trouble digesting the gluten in wheat flour, which can lead to malnutrition.
For these reasons, it is best to avoid feeding bread to sheep.
Can Sheep Eat Bread Dough?
No! Raw bread dough is even worse than baked bread for sheep.
Raw bread dough can actually kill sheep, as it may clog in their stomach and cuts off their ability to breathe.
If you see your sheep eating raw bread dough, take it away immediately and monitor them closely for any signs of distress.
Can Sheep Eat Baked Bread?
They really shouldn’t, though they technically can, if only in strictly limited amounts.
Baked bread is marginally better for sheep than raw bread dough, but it’s still not a good idea to feed it to them regularly.
As mentioned above, the high carb and fat content can lead to obesity, while the yeast can cause stomach upset.
Problems Associated with Bread and Grain Consumption
While bread may be a dietary staple for humans, it can be deadly for sheep. When sheep eat bread, they can suffer from a condition known as bloat.
Bloat occurs when the bread dough expands in the stomach, causing the sheep to feel uncomfortable and eventually leading to death.
In addition to bloat, sheep that eat bread may also develop other, more serious problems in addition to nutritional deficiencies.
One of the most common, and severe, is grain poisoning. Grain poisoning, also known as enterotoxemia, is a serious condition that can affect sheep.
The condition is caused by a build-up of toxins in the gut, which can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and intestinal blockage. In severe cases, grain poisoning can be fatal.
Symptoms of the condition include lethargy, loss of appetite, lack of vocalization, and inability to stand.
If you suspect that your sheep may be suffering from grain poisoning, it is important to seek veterinary advice immediately. Treatment involves providing the sheep with supportive care and preventing them from accessing grain.
Another major problem is peritonitis. Peritonitis is a potentially fatal condition that affects sheep.
It occurs when the peritoneum, a delicate membrane that covers the intestines, becomes inflamed.
This can happen due to a number of factors, including infection, injury or, yep, eating bread. Symptoms of peritonitis include loss of appetite, fever, abdominal pain, and bloating.
If left untreated, peritonitis can cause death within days. Treatment is intensive, and typically involves antibiotics and supportive care, such as IV fluids. With prompt treatment, most sheep will recover from peritonitis.
However, the condition can be recurrent, so it’s important to seek veterinary care if your sheep shows any signs of illness.
Do you want your sheep to suffer from any such maladies? If not, don’t give them bread.
Many Breads are Made with Harmful Ingredients that Sheep Should Never Have
Another issue with feeding bread to sheep is that it is often made with ingredients that they just can’t have, aside from the grains.
Things like salt, sugar, eggs, and certain herbs can all be problematic for sheep. Some of these ingredients can cause digestive upset, while others can lead to serious health problems.
For example, salt is essential for human health, but it can be deadly for sheep. Sheep are very sensitive to salt and can easily develop hyperatremia, a condition in which the body’s sodium levels become too high.
Sugar will cause weight gain and upset the balance of rumen fermentation. Eggs are something sheep cannot eat; they are strictly herbivores!
No matter how you try to square it, bread is nothing but a potential disaster for sheep at every turn.
How Often Can Sheep Have Bread?
Sheep shouldn’t have bread. At all. But if you must treat them a little, limit their intake to a tiny bit of crumbs once every couple of weeks at most, and only give them a small amount at that.
Any more than that and you risk serious consequences, and don’t be surprised if you sheep start feeling bad right after.
Keep in mind, sheep take a little time to adapt their systems to any new food, even ones that are totally safe for them.
The consequences of shocking their system with something that they cannot have, something like grains in particular, can be severe.
So think twice before you give them even a tiny bit.
Can Lambs Have Bread, Too?
No. Lambs especially should not have bread, and even a little is a great way to make the poor thing deathly sick.
If anything, they are even more sensitive to the problems that grains can cause than adult sheep, so it’s best to avoid giving them any at all.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.