Almost everyone enjoys indulging in some popcorn now and then. It's a great snack when you're catching the latest blockbuster, relaxing at home on movie night, or grabbing something out of the office vending machine. But is popcorn bad for dogs?
What happens when your furry friend comes sniffing around as you're popping a few kernels into your mouth? Can dogs eat popcorn, or is it not a good idea? What if you accidentally drop some popcorn on the floor and your pooch gobbles it up before you could stop them?
As is the case with most snacks made for people, popcorn isn't exactly a nutritional necessity for your dog. It can provide some nutritional value, but it's not enough to make popcorn a viable snack for your canine friend. Let's take a closer look at the plus side and drawbacks of popcorn and finally answer the question, “Is popcorn safe for dogs?”
The Plus Side of Popcorn
You may be surprised to learn that plain popped corn is fairly healthy for humans. Air-popped corn has a high nutritional value and contains a lot of dietary fiber, which helps the digestive system move waste through the intestinal tract. It also provides some small amounts of protein, iron, the B vitamins riboflavin and thiamine, and minerals like magnesium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorous.
Your dog can derive all of these same nutritional benefits from popcorn. In this way, air-popped popcorn in moderation can actually serve as a healthy snack for dogs. With that being said, dogs don't need popcorn to receive all of these nutrients. They'll get them from their regular dog food, so there's really no reason to give your dog popcorn regularly.
So, plain popcorn can provide some small amount of nutrition, but it's not really enough to make a big difference. Plus, there are even more reasons that you shouldn't bother giving your dog popcorn. It turns out that the snack poses a few potential risks for your canine friend.
Potential Side Effects of Popcorn
Popcorn itself isn't toxic to dogs. It's what humans tend to put on popcorn for flavor that presents a hazard. Plain popcorn is the safest variety for your dog, but let's be honest: How often do you sit down and enjoy a bowl of plain popcorn? Most likely, you're eating popcorn with added salt, oil, butter, or sugar, and that's not good for your pup.
Popcorn AdditivesGenerally speaking, there are three main types of additives that you'll find on popcorn:
- Butter and/or oil
Salted popcorn might taste great, but it's not safe for your dog. When your dog eats too much salt at once, he or she will become extremely thirsty and could even suffer from a life-threatening case of sodium ion poisoning. Most microwave popcorn contains a lot of added salt, so it's not a good idea to share with Fido. Oil and butter are other common additives to popcorn, and they're also bad for your pooch. Too much oil or butter at once can result in an upset stomach at the very least, as well as vomiting or diarrhea. Avoid giving your dog that delicious buttered popcorn on movie night, and keep it for yourself instead. Last but not least, there are plenty of popcorn varieties that come with added flavors. You might enjoy caramel, cheddar cheese, or peanut butter popcorn, for example. These added sweeteners introduce too many sugars and chemical preservatives to your dog's system, and it's just not worth the risk.
You've probably noticed it every time you eat popcorn. Those annoying kernel bits get stuck in between your teeth, causing irritation and even pain. The same thing can happen to dogs. It's entirely possible for parts of popcorn kernels, or the entire kernel, to get stuck in between your dog's teeth. It will most likely be just as irritating to your dog as it is to you, but there's a difference — your dog can't exactly use floss or a toothbrush to get some relief. When those kernels remain lodged along your dog's gum line, they can cause gum disease or tooth decay over a period of time. Another problem with popcorn kernels is that they're not very easy for your dog's digestive system to deal with. If your dog swallows a few kernels, it's probably not going to harm them, but there's no sense in putting your dog's gut through more work than necessary.
Your dog may tend to inhale whatever people food is presented to them. Pet parents should be careful, because popped and unpopped popcorn can present a choking hazard for dogs. If your pup gulps down too much popcorn at once, it could easily get lodged in their throat.
How to Give Your Dog Popcorn Safely
At the end of the day, dogs don't need popcorn in their diet. The only way that a dog should be given popcorn is if it's completely plain, without any salt, butter, oil, or flavoring of any kind. Even plain popcorn should be given only in small amounts, because giving too much at once can lead to intestinal upset or choking.
If you do give your dog popcorn, feed him or her plain popped kernels one at a time. Don't overindulge, because it could make your dog sick.
It's best not to get into the habit of giving your dog people food on a regular basis, because many of them aren't safe for your canine friend. The list includes, among many others:
- Onions and garlic
- Grapes and raisins
- Coffee and other high-caffeine foods and beverages
- Certain nuts, especially macadamia nuts
If you're ever unsure whether or not a certain food is safe or harmful for your dog, don't risk it. Check with your veterinarian to make sure before giving your furry BFF any type of human food. Remember: All that your pup really needs for good nutrition and a healthy life is a high-quality dog food that suits their age, weight, and breed.
Is Popcorn Bad for Dogs, or Can I Give My Dog a Little Taste?
A small amount of plain popcorn — without butter, salt, oil, flavoring, or any other additive — shouldn't harm your dog. But it's not something that your dog needs in their diet, so there's no reason to feed your dog popcorn at all. Plus, if your dog gets a taste for popcorn, you'll probably never be left alone on movie night again.
If your dog gets into a bag of buttered, salted, or flavored popcorn without your knowledge and eats a large amount, call your veterinarian to find out how to proceed. It's likely your dog will be experiencing stomach upset in the near future, along with possible diarrhea or vomiting.
If the amount ingested is large enough, your dog could be at risk for sodium ion poisoning or other serious health issues. That's when a visit to the vet's office is your best course of action.