Welcome to “Can My Dog Eat That?,” our series that answers some obvious (and not-so-obvious) questions about what your dog can and can’t safely eat. Today we answer the question: “Can dogs eat popcorn? Read on!
It’s movie night! You’ve got the latest release on pause, ready to go. You’ve dimmed the lights and grabbed the blankets ready for snuggles with your canine bestie. The last, but essential, part of your movie night preparations is the popcorn. You’ve popped a big bowl, but on the way to the couch, you trip over your dog’s ball and some popcorn falls to the floor.
Before you can say “No people food!” your canine vacuum cleaner has sucked it all up and is looking very proud of themselves for helping you clean. But now you’re thinking, “Can my dog eat popcorn?” It’s a valid question that’s probably been asked by many pet parents preparing for movie night with their canine couch companion.
So, Can Dogs Eat Popcorn?
The answer is yes, depending on the amount and the toppings. Air-popped popcorn that doesn’t have any salt, butter or other toppings on it is generally safe for your dog.
As an occasional treat, plain popcorn is great, as long as you keep to the guideline of feeding no more than 10 percent of your dog’s total daily calorie intake as treats. Plain air-popped popcorn is also a good alternative to traditional dog treats if your dog has chronic kidney disease or another health issue that requires them to limit their protein and sodium intake.
Popcorn does have some nutritional benefits for dogs, like fiber and some minerals and vitamins. However, your dog should already be getting the right nutrients in the right amounts from a complete and balanced dog food, so the popcorn nutrients aren’t really needed.
You do need to make sure you clear the popcorn bowl of kernels that didn’t pop. Dogs can’t digest these and they could get stuck in their teeth, which can be painful. If you have a toy breed, unpopped kernels could also be a choking hazard for them.
Plain Popcorn Only
Popcorn isn’t toxic to dogs, but it does become a problem when you start adding toppings to it. Butter and salt are not healthy for dogs. Let’s be honest, they’re not really healthy for people either — but they make the popcorn sooo tasty. Butter, oil and salt can cause your dog to have an upset gastrointestinal tract (think vomiting and diarrhea) and all of that delicious fat can stack on the pounds if your dog is eating buttered popcorn regularly. Eating too many high-fat foods can also increase your dog’s risk of developing pancreatitis. If your dog happens to “vacuum” up a few pieces from the floor, they will probably be OK. Just make sure they don’t have access to the whole bowl.
Sweet Toppings Are a No-No, Too!
The oh-so-sweet toppings for kettle corn, cinnamon-sugar popcorn and caramel popcorn can also switch popcorn over to the “That’s not good for you” list with all of their sugar content. And you should definitely avoid feeding popcorn to your dog if it’s coated in an ingredient that is toxic to dogs, like chocolate or xylitol (artificial sweetener).
So, if you’re wanting to share some popcorn with your dog next movie night, it’s generally OK to make them a little bowl of plain, air-popped popcorn. Just make sure they don’t get any of the delicious buttery popcorn — that’s for people only.
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The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.