Popcorn is one of the most popular snacks eaten at home. As pet parents, we know nothing brings more happiness to our dog's life than sharing our snacks with them. It's most likely we shared that salty, buttery treat with our furry companions as well, especially on movie night. Therefore, it begs the question, can dogs eat popcorn? Is it safe for our four-legged companions? The short answer, yes and no. Plain popcorn is safe for dogs but in moderation.
The key takeaway here is "plain" and "in moderation." Popcorn can be a tasty and somewhat healthy treat for your dog before it's been coated in heaps of salt, flavoring, and butter. Furthermore, popcorn should only be a treat given occasionally and never replace your dog's actual meals.
Benefits Popcorn Provides for Dogs
Popcorn itself is not a health concern, especially when it's air-popped. If you do feed your dog popcorn, it's important to understand that plain air-popped popcorn is completely harmless. Plain popcorn is a great source of fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. All of this is exactly what you want in a snack for your four-legged companion, but it should never replace their pet food.
Packed With Vitamin And Mineral
The minerals packed in the healthy popcorn are zinc, copper, magnesium, and iron, all of which your dog needs to live a long and healthy life. Here are some of the benefits:
Zinc plays an important role in your dog's thyroid and immune system function. Without it, you can expect your furry companion to fall victim to all kinds of infection.
Copper is vital in acting as an antioxidant for your dog and creating enzymes responsible for forming melanin, the pigment that darkens skin and fur. Copper plays a role in forming a dog's bones, connective tissue, collagen, myelin, and it also helps the body absorb iron.
Magnesium is responsible for the production of energy on a cellular level. Every time your canine friend wags their tail, runs after a stick or moves a muscle, magnesium assists with that energy transfer.
Among all the benefits delivered by tasty popcorn treats, fiber is one of them. According to the American Kennel Club, fiber assists your dog's digestive tract in preventing the overgrowth of bad bacteria. Your dog will be less likely to suffer from diarrhea, constipation, and colon cancer. Fiber also assists in reducing the chance of obesity, which is the leading cause of illness in dogs.
Rich In Antioxidants
The second benefit is the antioxidants packed into popcorn. Antioxidants help prevent the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are known for their aid in disease progression and premature aging in your dog.
In short, plain popcorn is quite the "super-snack" for your furry four-legged friend, as it provides multiple health benefits.
Side effects and Dangers of Popcorn
Popcorn by itself is not the cause for concern with your pup, but what we add to the popcorn and how much to feed should be. As mentioned before, plain popcorn is quite healthy for him/her. Unfortunately, when we eat popcorn, we tend to coat that healthy snack in salt, butter, oils, and other flavorings. And as with any delicious treat, too much popcorn can have a negative effect.
Too much Salt And Flavoring
While these additional toppings pack tons of flavor, they can be detrimental to our furry companions' health. For starters, sodium is a double-edged sword for canines. A moderate amount of sodium is required and necessary for dogs. According to Healthypaws Pet Insurance and Foundation, salt helps your dog stay hydrated, keeps organs functioning, and assists in muscle function. But too much salt can have a negative impact on your dog's health.
When your dog eats too much salt in one sitting, it will likely experience dehydration. Your canine's tongue will appear pasty-white, and he/she will drink more water than usual. In extreme cases, salt poisoning will occur. If this happens, your dog will experience the following symptoms:
- Excessive Urination
- Stiff Muscles
- Diarrhea & Vomiting
- Tremors & Seizures
- Sodium-ion poisoning is rare and may be fatal if emergency veterinary care isn't found.
Oils, butters, and fats. Oh My!
Unlike air-popped popcorn, corn kernels that are heated in oils and fats have long-lasting side effects for dogs. This typically applies to microwave popcorn as they are high in salt and butter!
Obesity is the leading illness for dogs, so limiting anything that might combat effective weight management makes sense. While obesity won't happen from one serving of popcorn, habitual overindulgence of the snack will cause it. This can potentially lead to heart disease and other fatal ailments in your furry friend.
Furthermore, butter and oils found in most popcorn can cause gastrointestinal issues in your dog. Too much buttery popcorn can lead to pancreatitis, which is common in dogs that ingest fatty foods such as oils and butter. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach, and abdominal pain.
It's all too common to experience loose kernel bits getting stuck between our teeth when eating popcorn. It's easy for us as humans to remove this with dental floss and toothbrushes. Dogs, however, do not have this option, and most of us don't brush our canine buddies' teeth at the end of the day. Not to mention, popcorn kernels can also be a choking hazard. You may want to think before feeding popcorn to your dog.
Kernels that get stuck between a dog's teeth can lead to multiple problems, including pain, discomfort, and infection. Kernel bits that don't dislodge over time can cause accelerated tooth decay and gum disease like gingivitis.
In closing, popcorn can be a safe and healthy snack for your dog, but only if you choose the correct kind. Many different brands on the market will cause more harm than good for your canine friend. If you don't want to risk feeding your dog the wrong type of popcorn, then try some of these other nutritious snacks.
The Safe Alternatives to Popcorn Snacks
There's a bunch of human food that can be healthy snacks for your canine companions. These alternatives are even healthier dog snacks than popcorn.
Cucumbers. These tasty, low-calorie treats are great for dogs. Slice them into small portions to avoid choking, and only offer small portions to avoid upset stomachs.
Strawberries. They're great for naturally whitening your dog's teeth. They're also a great source of fiber and vitamin C for your fluffy companion.
Blueberries. This superfood for humans is equally great for canines. It's packed full of antioxidants and fiber.
Cooked egg. A single cooked egg is great for providing a protein boost for your dog.
The next time you're chomping down on popcorn and giving your dog some, remember that it's okay under the right circumstances. As long as that popcorn is air-popped and unseasoned, it can be a tasty snack for your canine. Remember to ensure it never replaces their regular dog food and always follow the 10% snack rule.
Can Dogs Eat Microwave Popcorn?
Microwave popcorn is often high in salt and butter, which can be a problem for some dogs. This is a concern, especially for ones with obesity and cardiac conditions. And not to mention, whole and partially popped kernels can pose a choking hazard.