A dog standing in a field where sweet potatoes are being grown.

Welcome to “Can My Dog Eat That?,” our new series that answers some obvious (and not-so-obvious) questions about what your dog can and can’t safely eat. Read on!

Sweet potatoes are a divisive food on the human table. It seems that people either love ’em or hate ’em, and there’s no in-between. In the dog world, however, it’s a “people food,” so chances are, your dog would scarf them down if given the opportunity.

But should you give your dog the opportunity?

What is a sweet potato, anyway?

It might surprise you to hear this, but sweet potatoes are not potatoes at all. Or at least they’re not stem tubers, as most potatoes are classified. Sweet potatoes are actually root vegetables and only distantly related to your standard ’tater. But that’s not to say that they aren’t similar. Both sweet and regular (white) potatoes offer roughly the same calories, protein and carbs, but they differ in their additional benefits. White potatoes provide plenty of potassium, and the sweet potato’s bragging rights are attached to their copious amounts of vitamin A. Now, despite the name, a raw sweet potato isn’t actually sweet; it just tastes starchy, like the other kinds of potatoes. But when you start cooking sweet potatoes, the heat releases an enzyme that breaks down all that starch and turns it in to a form of sugar. This “sugar” isn’t half as sweet as the stuff you put in your coffee, but compared to a normal white potato, it seems like candy — which may explain why your dog would be so eager to eat one.

Can my dog eat sweet potatoes?

They can, if the sweet potato is prepared properly and served in moderation, considering your individual pet’s specific health and diet needs. Sweet potatoes can be very beneficial, providing energy while helping support gut health, thanks to the high levels of antioxidants. The vitamin A in sweet potatoes helps maintain healthy eyes and skin. The dietary fiber help support the digestive system.

Don’t feed your dog raw or whole sweet potatoes; the skin can be hard to bite through and isn’t great for the digestive tract, and if your dog bites large chunks of the ’tater, they could choke. Prepare them by baking, boiling or mashing them. DON’T candy them as you would for your family’s Thanksgiving dinner, though.

In fact, the best way to offer your dog sweet potatoes is as an ingredient in their dog food, to make sure that it’s part of a balanced diet. Many dog food recipes use sweet potatoes as a healthy source of carbohydrates, so check the ingredients panel on the bag or can.

There’s a caveat

As with anyone’s diet, your dog’s diet should be judged for your individual dog. Diabetic or overweight dogs shouldn’t indulge in sweet potatoes outside of a reputable dog food recipe. If you have any questions about your dog’s diet and if they can or can’t eat that, contact your veterinarian.

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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.