Can My Dog Eat Popcorn? (& Which Flavors are Safe?)
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Can dogs eat popcorn? When you sit down with a big bowl of this delicious fluffy treat on movie night, your dog's pleading eyes might tempt you to share your salty, buttery snack. But is that a good idea? While your heart might say "yes," your dog's health may say "no." But is popcorn bad for dogs? Or are there certain conditions that can actually make popcorn a healthy dog treat? Read on to learn the ins and outs of feeding popcorn to your pooch.
What Is Popcorn?
Popcorn is simply corn, a type of grain that's found in many commercial dog foods. Corn kernels that have been dried and hardened "pop" into fluffy, white popcorn when heated up.
There are two types of popcorn, says The Spruce Pets: butterfly popcorn, which is the spread-out kind found in movie and microwave popcorn; and mushroom popcorn, which is the rounder kind found in popcorn tins and candied popcorn mixes.
Is Popcorn Bad for Dogs?
So, can dogs eat popcorn? In and of itself, fully popped, unseasoned popcorn is safe for dogs in small quantities, as long as it's popped using methods that don't require oil, such as air popping. As with plain yellow or white corn, popcorn is rich in fiber and antioxidants, as well as B vitamins and minerals like iron, copper, magnesium and zinc, says Verywell Fit, all of which are good for your pup in moderation.
The concern with sharing popcorn with your pooch lies mainly in the way popcorn is prepared for human consumption. Typical popping methods that use oil add fat and calories that can cause gastrointestinal issues in your dog and contribute to obesity. The same can be said for the butter that's often added. Salt can also contribute to a host of health problems, and some popcorn seasonings, such as garlic, are toxic to dogs. Microwave popcorn, in particular, contains chemical preservatives and unhealthy forms of fat.
Fats and seasonings aren't the only potential danger when it comes to dogs and popcorn. Unpopped or partially popped kernels can be a choking hazard and may even cause damage to your dog's teeth, says Spruce Pets. Additionally, popcorn hulls can get stuck in your dog's teeth and cause irritation or damage to gums.
Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common and noticeable reactions dogs have to eating buttery popcorn, says Spruce Pets. While these symptoms usually pass on their own, more serious health issues like dehydration and kidney damage from excessive salt consumption can occur in dogs who are given large amounts of seasoned popcorn. Obesity and weight gain can also result from dogs being fed popcorn that's been prepared for humans on a regular basis.
Can Dogs Eat Popcorn That's Sweet or Seasoned?
When the holiday season rolls around, you may find that you have other kinds of popcorn in your home as well. Here are some of the concerns associated with feeding your dog sweet or seasoned popcorn.
Can dogs eat popcorn if it's sweet instead of salty? Caramel corn, kettle corn and other types of sweet, coated or candied popcorn can pose a different set of dangers to your dog. These can contain artificial sweeteners, like xylitol, that are toxic to dogs. Some candied coatings, like chocolate, are toxic as well. And sugar can lead to obesity and diabetes in dogs much more quickly than in humans. It's also not good for their teeth.
If your dog gets a hold of one or two kernels that have been dropped on the floor, it probably won't harm them, but you should keep an eye on them for signs of vomiting or diarrhea. If these symptoms don't clear up within a day, give your veterinarian a call. If your dog gets a hold of popcorn that's been coated with different seasonings such as butter or cheddar cheese, contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance. And if you've been sharing your seasoned popcorn with your dog on a regular basis, it's important to stop and take your dog for a health checkup. Your veterinarian will likely want to check your pup's kidneys for any damage from excess sodium.
How to Safely Feed Popcorn to Your Dog
Most methods of popping popcorn, including a stovetop, campfire, electric popper and microwave, usually involve heating the kernels in oil, which adds fat and calories that aren't healthy for your dog. If you really want to share popcorn with your dog, follow these steps to turn popcorn into a safe and healthy treat.
Air pop a small amount of popcorn, or use the oilless microwave method discussed above.
Separate out unpopped kernels and hulls.
Feed it to your dog plain, with no salt or butter added.
As with any dog treat, be sure to factor it into your dog's daily calories and adjust meals accordingly. Keep in mind that your dog benefits from the proper balance of nutrients as well, so more than just calories, you should never feed your dog popcorn in excess to avoid upsetting that nutrient balance. If you ever have any questions or concerns, make sure to talk to your veterinarian.
Dogs love to eat what we eat, but it's generally not a good idea. However, when prepared correctly, popcorn in moderation can be a safe and healthy dog snack with consent from your veterinarian. So go ahead and pop your dog their own popcorn treat, so they can share the fun on your next family movie night.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover and freelance pet writer whose work also appears on AKC.org, Care.com and the Daily Puppy, among others. She's also a novelist who resides in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching deer, wild turkeys and the occasional stray cow wander through her back yard while drinking her morning coffee.