Can Deer Eat Bread? (Explained)

Bread can be a good source of nourishment. It’s rich in fiber, protein, and other vitamins and minerals that several organisms, including deer, need to function.

Given that, many people have taken to feeding deer this treat by placing it near their properties or scattering it in known deer feeding grounds. However, as deer don’t typically consume this food in their diet, is it safe for deer to eat bread?

Can Deer Eat Bread?                                         

Deer can safely consume bread. Some humans have even observed these animals enjoying this treat. However, large amounts of bread can be harmful to these animals as it messes with their stomach.

Deer are herbivores who dine on various crops and veggies found in the woods or nearby areas. They are fond of shrubbery, leaves, and the occasional nut or acorn. 

However, these can be hard to come by during the winter. This forces the deer to consume other food sources made available to them, such as bread scattered by concerned humans.

While bread can serve as a good treat for the deer, too much can be bad for them as this snack can potentially cause irreparable harm to the deer’s digestive tract.

How Much Bread Can Deer Eat?

Adult deer can safely take in around 1 to 3 slices of bread or roughly 115 grams. If the deer eat any more than this, they risk having lactic acidosis and causing great damage to their digestive tracts.

On the other hand, fawns are highly discouraged from eating bread as their digestive tracts are not yet equipped for digesting this type of food. Instead, they must strictly adhere to the deer’s natural diet of twigs, leaves, and vegetation.

What Nutrients Can Deer Get From Bread?

Can Deer Eat Bread?

Bread is made for human consumption and cannot fully sustain deer. However, it can temporarily relieve hunger and provide small amounts of nutrients that the deer need.

  • Protein

Protein is a crucial nutrient that ensures that deer are able to maintain their sturdy builds. In addition, it also plays a significant role in encouraging antler growth.

Studies have shown that deer require around 6% to 7% crude protein (CP) in order to survive and maintain healthy bodies. These animals usually obtain protein through crops and other vegetation.

Bread contains around 40 grams of protein per loaf. While this may not be able to support the deer’s needs completely, it can still contribute to its daily requirements.

  • Carbohydrates

Deer require a lot of energy in their day-to-day activities, especially during mating season and winter. They are incredibly dependent on carbohydrates or the energy-providing nutrient to keep them moving and sustain them during the harsh, cold seasons.

Typically, deer obtain carbohydrates from corn, acorn, or other grain crops they can find to feed on.

Bread can contain up to 13 grams of carbohydrates in a single slice, making it a rich source of this energy-giving macronutrient.

  • Calcium

Antlers require a lot of nutrients to grow healthy and strong. One such nutrient is calcium. Calcium ensures that antlers, as well as its several bony tissues, develop well.

In addition to that, this micronutrient also helps with nursing, metabolism, and muscle contractions.

Deer typically do not intake calcium due to their herbivore diet and instead rely on chemical reactions in their bodies to produce the calcium they need.

To help support their calcium requirements, these animals can be fed bread as this treat contains an average of 250 milligrams of calcium for every 100 grams of bread.

  • Fiber

Fiber is an essential component in the deer’s diet. This nutrient maintains proper digestive functions and is responsible for the muscle contractions in the rumen. It can also serve as an alternate source of vitamins, protein, and energy.

It is said that deer require around 16 to 20 percent of crude fiber. They often get it from grass, twigs, and fruit.

Deer can also obtain this nutrient from bread. Bread contains an average of 2.7 grams per 100 grams of bread, making it a rich source of dietary fiber.

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Is Bread Harmful For Deer?

Small amounts of bread will not harm deer. However, too much bread can cause a deer’s digestive system to act up simply because it is not used to digesting these types of food.

In worst-case scenarios, it can even lead to the animal’s death.

Lactic Acidosis

Can Deer Eat Bread?

The most common damaging manifestation of feeding deer too much bread is Lactic Acidosis. It is the overproduction of lactic acid brought on by carbohydrate digestion.

This condition is brought on by the overconsumption of bread, corn, and grain. 

How Does It Work?

The deer’s digestive system relies on several healthy microorganisms to aid digestion inside the deer’s rumen or stomach.

These microorganisms are in charge of breaking down food molecules to provide nourishment to the body and maintain a healthy, functioning gastrointestinal tract.

Some of these microorganisms are in charge of breaking down carbohydrates. But, since carbohydrates only make up a small amount of the deer’s typical diet, these carbohydrate digesting bacteria are also only found in a small amount.

When carbohydrates are digested, they form a byproduct called lactic acid. This acid protects the digestive tract by preventing gastrointestinal issues and performing various cellular functions.

However, if deer were to eat a large amount of bread, these carbohydrate digesting bacteria would be forced into overdrive. This ultimately leads to the overproduction of lactic acid and the beginning of trouble for the deer.

The overproduction of lactic acid can lead to the following outcomes:

Kills Healthy Internal Microorganisms

The deer’s rumen or stomach is filled with microorganisms that perform various functions to keep the body healthy and strong. These microorganisms are kept safe by a steady but fragile balance of pH and nutrients.

The increased amount of lactic acid brought on by bread consumption can alter the rumen’s pH and kill essential microorganisms necessary for other body functions.

It takes 2 to 6 hours for all microorganisms to die after consuming a toxic amount of bread.

Alters Osmotic Pressure

Osmotic pressure is the pressure that keeps our body fluids at bay. It makes sure that everything is flowing in their respective areas.

In lactic acidosis, lactic acid, as well as its salts, alters osmotic pressure to a point wherein fluid from surrounding tissues flows into the rumen. This creates harmful fluid build-up in the deer’s stomach.

It can also rob surrounding tissues and cells of much-needed fluids, thus causing severe dehydration.

Damages Rumen Motility and Walls

All food the deer ingests moves through the digestive tract with the help of the rumen’s muscle contractions. The rumen walls are also responsible for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients distributed to various body parts.

In lactic acidosis, rumen motility is greatly hindered by increased lactic acid. This can cause everything the deer intakes to get stuck in the rumen.

If that weren’t enough, the lactic acid can also damage rumen walls and cause ulcers rendering it unable to absorb food and nutrients.

Uptake of Lactic Acid in Blood

The increased levels of lactic acid can also cause your body to absorb it in the blood in an attempt to redirect it or ultimately remove it from your system.

But, too much lactic acid build-up in your cardiovascular system can lead to muscle pain, weakness, rapid breathing, and, in severe cases, shock and death.

How Can You Tell if A Deer Ate Too Much Bread?

Signs that a deer ate too much bread or grain usually appear within 24 to 48 hours of ingestion. If you suspect a deer may have eaten a toxic amount of bread, watch out for the following signs:

  • Staggering
  • Idle standing (Little to no reaction)
  • Abdominal sensitivity (Due to Enlarged Rumen)
  • Inability to Stand Up
  • Diarrhea

There is currently no known treatment for this condition for deer, mainly because they can appear almost normal despite its affliction.

They may suddenly die within 24 to 72 hours of ingesting large quantities of bread without exhibiting any outward symptoms of weakness.


Deer can eat bread but in controlled amounts. Too much bread can make the body react negatively simply because it is not used to digesting this kind of food.

If possible, limit (or altogether avoid) giving wild deer bread and use other more natural food sources when feeding them. This will not only nourish the deer better, but it can also potentially save this wild animal’s life.

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