Can dogs eat popcorn? Is it safe for them, or is popcorn bad for dogs? The Labrador Site team investigate the pros and cons of popcorn for dogs.
Dogs can have fully popped popcorn in small quantities. But buttered, salty, or caramel popcorn is less suitable for dogs. And unpopped kernels can damage their teeth or be a choking hazard. Read on to find out why some types of popcorn are safer for dogs than others, and just how much popcorn your dog can eat.
Can Dogs Eat Popcorn?
Popcorn is a type of corn kernel. When heated, it puffs up and expands. Some people will buy it in packs after it’s already expanded, but other people prefer to pop their own at home. It’s a popular snack at the movies, but is also becoming more common as a general treat.
In its most plain form, once it has been fully popped, popcorn is safe for dogs in small quantities. But, the added flavorings that people use on popcorn can be more harmful for our dogs. And, unpopped kernels can be problematic. If you’ve ever bitten down on a partially popped piece of popcorn, you know just how tough these little bits can be. Your dog will find them just as hard. So, not only can they be a dental hazard, but also present a choking risk.
Popcorn and Dogs
The history of popcorn (popped corn kernels) goes back thousands of years in the Americas. And it continues to be a very popular snack today. We like to treat our best friends to what we ourselves crave. But can dogs have popcorn?
Like a lot of human food, popcorn can be good and bad for dogs. It has some nutrients, but it also may have additives and calories that aren’t good for the health of your dog in the long run. Popcorn isn’t poisonous or toxic but there are some hazards to keep in mind if you do share this treat with your dog. So is popcorn bad for dogs?
When is Popcorn Bad For Dogs?
The popcorn that most of us crave and chow down on is full of salt, butter, and other sweet and savory flavorings. Although it tastes incredible, it isn’t really good for us. And it isn’t good for dogs either. The richness of the fatty butter is densely packed with calories and can cause both intestinal upset and obesity if you give him too much at once or feed him popcorn on a regular basis. Added salt and sweeteners can also lead to health problems for your dog in much the same way.
Another aspect to consider is that hard popcorn kernels can wreak havoc on your dog’s teeth. Dogs can accidentally crack their teeth on popcorn kernels or accidentally choke on them if you aren’t careful. So it’s best to avoid feeding them hard kernels. But if the answer to can dogs have popcorn kernels is no, can they eat any popcorn? Is it ever safe?
Is Popcorn Good For Dogs?
As mentioned above, popcorn can be bad for your Lab. You may be wondering if there is any way that feeding dogs popcorn is a good idea? The answer is yes. Plain, unsalted, air-popped popcorn in moderation can in some respects be seen as a positive addition to your dog’s diet.
What’s so good about plain, unsalted, air-popped popcorn? It has fiber and several vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to dogs, such as zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. But the fact is that your dog already gets everything he needs from his complete dog food or raw food diet.
I know that most of us find plain popcorn to be way less appetizing than buttery or flavored popcorn, but it sure is the healthy alternative if you really want to share! So popcorn isn’t bad for dogs, but it isn’t really good for them either. It’s not giving them anything they aren’t already getting.
Can Dogs Eat Salted Popcorn?
Salt toxicity is a real concern for dogs. However, research shows that salt as an extra additive in dog food is not so terrible for dogs if they are provided with an adequate source of fresh water to drink. But while dogs can self-regulate and drink more water in response to a bit more salt in their diet, it’s best not to add more salt to their diet in the long run. Dogs get enough salt and other nutrients if given a well-balanced dog food diet, to begin with. So salty popcorn is just not a good treat to give to dogs.
Can Dogs Eat Buttered Popcorn?
Mmm… buttery popcorn that melts in your mouth. What’s not to love? As much as we relish the taste of buttery popcorn, it is best not to feed your dog this kind of treat. Technically, one or two isn’t going to hurt your dog. But we know that it’s challenging to stop there.
Butter is basically saturated fat and has no health benefits for your dog. It may cause digestive concerns and regular intake can lead to weight gain. And some dogs are even lactose intolerant and eating milk products can cause diarrhea or vomiting. That’s why it’s best to just feed your dog plain popcorn as a treat, instead of the buttered variety.
Can Dogs Eat Caramel Popcorn?
The addition of caramel to popcorn can be problematic for your dog for several reasons. Just like salt and butter, the high-sugar content of caramel can cause stomach problems for your dog. And if given regularly, the calories can lead to weight gain, obesity, and can also lead to other health problems like diabetes and dental problems.
Caramel also usually contains butter or cream too which can lead to the same concerns. And even “sugar-free” caramel can be an issue if it contains xylitol because it is toxic to dogs. Therefore, you shouldn’t feed your dog caramel popcorn.
Can Dogs Eat White Cheddar Popcorn?
Although white cheddar popcorn may be tasty, dogs should not be fed this or any kind of cheesy popcorn. The “cheese” that is added to popcorn is actually a mix of additional salt, oils, and milk products that are not good for your pet. As previously mentioned dogs don’t benefit from extra salt or oil in their diet and may even be lactose intolerant. So it’s best to avoid feeding your pup your cheesy popcorn altogether.
Can Dogs Eat Popcorn Kernels?
It is never a good idea to give dogs popcorn kernels to munch on. Not only can it damage their teeth as previously mentioned, but it can also be a choking hazard as well. Be sure to select only fully popped popcorn when you treat your Lab. And be sure to keep a watchful eye to make sure your dog is handling the popcorn okay.
What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Popcorn Kernels?
You should monitor your dog and consult your vet if your dog has eaten popcorn kernels. Kernels can get in their teeth and be a choking hazard. If your dog is choking, you need to take them to your vet or emergency animal hospital. Otherwise, take your dog in to see a vet for a check-up if any other concerns present.
Should I Give My Dog Popcorn?
Given this hazard, is it ever good for dogs to eat popcorn? Popcorn for dogs in small quantities is relatively safe if prepared and shared properly. Popcorn contains fiber and some vitamins and minerals that can be good for your Lab. But they don’t give him anything he’s not getting already. And salted, buttery, and cheesy popcorn are not good to feed your dog. Nor are kernels.
If you are desperate to share, then it’s okay to give your dog a couple of pieces of plain, air-popped popcorn once in a while. But don’t go overboard and keep a close eye on him when he’s munching. Make sure you only pick out fully popped, soft, and chewy pieces to share with your dog so that it is not a choking hazard or harmful to its teeth.
So the answer to the question, can dogs have popcorn is, therefore, yes, but with the important provision that it must be fully air-popped and plain.
How to Prepare Popcorn for Dogs
First of all, don’t share prepackaged popcorn with your dog, including microwave popcorn. These may contain oils, additives, or even chemicals that are unhealthy for your dog. And the bags that popcorn comes can actually be a suffocation hazard to your dog too!
Prepare plain, unsalted, and unflavored kinds of popcorn for your dog. It’s healthy for both you and your pet! And the best way to prepare the popcorn is to air-pop it rather than using the stovetop. Remember, you don’t want to use any kind of oil or seasoning to prepare the popcorn.
Alternatives to Popcorn for Dogs
Summary: Can Dogs Eat Popcorn?
Popcorn can be safe for dogs if given to them as a rare treat. Vets recommend that popcorn and other treats should not take up more than 10% of your dog’s diet. Feeding your dog fully air-popped, plain popcorn pieces isn’t going to do any damage. However, it is best to avoid the salty, buttery, sugary, and cheesy popcorn varieties. And be sure you are not giving any hard unpopped kernels to your Lab as they are a choking hazard and bad for their teeth.
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References and Further Reading
- ”Is popcorn a healthy snack? It can be!,” Agriculture Research Service, U.S Department of Agriculture
- ”People Food to Avoid Feeding Your Pets,” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
- Benyen, A., ”Salt in dog food.”
- German, A.J., “The Growing Problem of Obesity in Dogs and Cats.”
- Tavella, V.J., “Which people foods are safe for dogs?” Medical News Today
- ”Obesity in Dogs,” VCA Hospitals.
- “Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs“, Blue Cross
- “Overview of Salt Toxicity“, Merck Veterinary Manual
- Dell’Amor, C. “Ancient Popcorn Found – Made 2,000 Years Earlier Than Thought in Peru“, National Geographic
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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
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