Imagine you and your pup snuggled in for a movie night. Your couch is comfy and you have freshly popped popcorn ready for snacking. You hit the remote, reach into your bowl, and what’s that? Your pup nudges your hand, looking for a taste?
We all know our dogs love sharing treats with us, and it can be fun to toss your dog a popped kernel or two. Can yours catch it in his mouth?
However, you might wonder, is it safe to feed your dog popcorn? After all, there’s a lengthy list of common human food that dogs can’t eat without the risk of getting sick.
The list includes:
- and more
What about popcorn?
Even if you don’t give your dog popcorn outright, those pesky popcorn kernels have a way of finding their way onto the floor and into couch crevices for doggie snacks to reward snuffling pups.
So, can dogs eat popcorn? It turns out that popcorn is one of those foods that straddles the line of yes and no. Let’s find out why.
What is Popcorn?
First, consider the popcorn. You know it starts as a pile of corn kernels that expands and pops when heated. The result is delicious, fluffy popcorn kernels.
When eaten plain, popcorn has various good-for-you minerals like:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- other minerals needed in a healthy diet
Ok, But Is Popcorn Safe for Dogs?
The good news is you won’t find popcorn on any of those lists of foods poisonous to dogs. However, that doesn’t mean large amounts should make up a big part of your dog’s diet– your dog doesn’t need their own popcorn bowl.
A small amount of plain popcorn is acceptable for most dogs. In small quantities, it can be a nice dog treat. What’s a small quantity? It depends on your dog’s size but probably less than you think, as you’ll see in a moment.
Plain, air-popped popcorn is a healthy snack. It’s rich in fiber which is a digestive aid. It also has many good-for-you minerals, as mentioned above.
Yet, if you’re like most people, you don’t eat it plain. Most people crave heavily buttered popcorn with salt or loads of seasonings, which changes the nutritional value. Extra salt, loads of butter, and other flavorings ramp up the calories and negates any dietary benefits. You’re probably not surprised that popcorn loaded with salt and flavorings isn’t healthy for you or your pooch.
Plus, some toppings can be downright dangerous to dogs.
For example, garlic salt isn’t good for dogs. If you used garlic flavoring on your popcorn and your dog ate it, they could get sick because garlic is one of those people foods that can be toxic to dogs. Likewise, never let your dog eat chocolate or caramel-coated popcorn.
Besides the flavorings, there are the corn kernels. Those unpopped kernels can get stuck in your dog’s teeth and pose a choking hazard. Plus, unpopped corn kernels aren’t easily digested, and one of two will probably make their way through the digestive system, but you don’t want your pup gobbling down piles of unpopped kernels.
Then, some dogs are allergic to corn. How would you know if your pup has a corn sensitivity? Most dog food allergies present as gastrointestinal problems like an upset stomach, vomiting, gas, and diarrhea. However, some dogs have food issues shown as skin problems. And if you give your dog popcorn and then they have diarrhea, that’s a sign their digestive system can’t handle it.
Microwave Popcorn vs. Air-popped
Another question is, what kind of popcorn are you eating? Microwave popcorn is convenient. Yet, it tends to have a lot of salt and extra additives, which adds to the calorie count for both humans and dogs. Microwave popcorn doesn’t make a great dog treat unless it’s plain.
However, if you have an air-popper, you can pop up some plain popcorn and share a little with your pup in small quantities. What’s an appropriate portion size? A small handful of popcorn for a medium-size dog is plenty. Less for a small dog.
In general, you want to avoid giving your dog heavily flavored popcorn like kettle corn or any of those pre-packed popcorn brands you buy at the grocery store. Plain and air-popped are the way to go for your floof.
Pet Obesity Is a Problem
Dogs love treats, and many pet parents enjoy giving their pups snacks. But, as the dogs put on the pounds and increase their caloric intake, they can suffer from health issues.
Cat and dog obesity is such a problem there’s an Association for Pet Obesity and an annual Pet Obesity Awareness Day (it’s October 12.) The American Pet Products Association’s most recent survey found that 55.8% of dogs are overweight or obese.
Extra weight can contribute to heart problems, arthritis, and even cancer. Since losing weight is the best option for a healthy life span. You certainly don’t want to contribute to the weight gain problem by offering your dog popcorn full of saturated fats and additives.
There’s no shortage of dog snacks you can offer your pup instead of popcorn. Most dogs love these:
- Peanut butter (make sure you avoid ones with the sweetener known as xylitol as that’s poisonous for dogs. You can put the peanut butter in or on a chew toy to keep your pup occupied.)
- Apples (cut them into bite-size pieces)
- Baby carrots
- Sliced cooked chicken
- Yummy dog treats
If you want to offer your pup a few kernels of plain popcorn, you can air-pop a few kernels for your pup if you like. Just separate them from your popcorn if you’re going to add flavorings like salt, butter, and other seasonings. That way, your dog gets a taste of a healthy snack but not too much. Then, offer a dog chew toy or a belly rub to your dog.
As you can see, like many treats, there are minor health benefits of popcorn for dogs in small quantities. That is, as long as you keep it plain. Skip the butter and flavorings and let your dog enjoy a plain fluffy popcorn kernel or two but don’t overdo it.
Your dog’s health depends on getting plenty of exercise and eating nutritious pet food in the right proportions for their size, age, and activity level.