Can my dog eat popcorn? If you enjoy sharing the occasional healthy treat with your pup, you may be wondering if your dog can eat popcorn. Popcorn certainly doesn’t have the risks of ice cream, and your dog may love the smell more than a slice of the carrot.
But is popcorn good for dogs? Is it possible that popcorn can kill dogs? The answer is both yes and no, so let’s take a closer look.
In this article:
Can my dog eat popcorn? Is popcorn good for dogs?
The benefits of popcorn for dogs
Plain popped popcorn has some benefits for dogs if fed in moderation. It may even have some benefits for dogs at risk of diabetes. Popcorn is primarily a carbohydrate in the form of starch. This is no problem for dogs as they produce the enzyme amylase. This enzyme can break down starch effectively to use as fuel.
Popcorn also has type 1 resistant starch. Research shows that this type of starch improves a dog’s gut health and microflora and helps regulate their response to blood glucose. In fact, popcorn might be pretty good for old dogs, dogs with diabetes, and dogs that are overweight.
This is because plain popcorn is low in calories, high in insoluble fiber, and has a low glycemic index. The glycemic index is essential as dogs seem to be as vulnerable to high GI foods as humans.
The high-fiber content in popcorn is also great if fed in moderation. Keep in mind that too much fiber can upset your dog’s tummy. Popcorn contains insoluble fiber, which is essential to keep them feeling full and lower calories. It also stimulates their movement in their gastrointestinal tract, preventing constipation.
A balanced doggy diet usually contains about 4 to 5% mixed soluble and insoluble fibers.
Finally, popcorn contains phenolic compounds with powerful antioxidants that outrank many fruits and vegetables. This means it’s excellent for scouring the body for free radicals and preventing disease. It may even have anti-cancer properties. They are also high in essential vitamins, including thiamine and vitamin E, which often destabilize in commercial dog food.
Popcorn also contains vitamins A, K, folate, pyridoxine, niacin, pantothenic acid. In addition, there are trace minerals such as iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and zinc. These are all great for skin and coat, skeletal, and immune systems.
Is popcorn bad for dogs? The risks of popcorn for dogs
Of course, this doesn’t mean popcorn is okay for dogs as part of an everyday diet. All dogs should be on a balanced and properly formulated diet. One risk of popcorn is that it can create an excess of carbohydrates (and fat).
Healthy grains and carbohydrates should indeed form a part of the dog diet. The recent trend towards grain-free diets may be linked to taurine deficiencies and heart disease. The tendency to use high amounts of peas and other legumes or pulses in these diets may be preventing dogs from absorbing taurine.
Grain allergies are extremely rare, and most dogs can enjoy them without any problems. In fact, a dog is more likely to be allergic to chicken than wheat. So as a healthy whole grain, plain, air-popped popcorn is usually not an issue.
Therefore, good grains and carbohydrates are a normal part of a diet if fed in moderation. Breaking down too much protein leads to an excess of phosphorus in the body, which can cause kidney problems. By making sure the average dog has about 40 to 50% carbohydrates in their diet, they can.
However, too many carbohydrates can lead to various problems, including weight gain. Likewise, too much fiber can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea or stop the absorption of certain nutrients. This means that feeding your dog popcorn regularly can be bad for their tummy and create an imbalance in their diet.
But the real problem with popcorn for canines is not plain, freshly popped popcorn. It’s what’s on the popcorn and how it’s popped that matters most.
Can my dog eat stove-popped popcorn?
Stove popped popcorn is often popped in vegetable oil or butter, which is not a good option for dogs.
Firstly, extra fats and oils in the diet can contribute to gastrointestinal issues. A high-fat diet is often behind problems like pancreatitis or diabetes. Neither butter nor most vegetable oils have a good fatty acid profile for dogs. So even using a healthier oil, like olive oil, isn’t a better choice for canines.
Dogs need specific fats in their diet. The most vital are omega-3s that are best coming from fish or krill oil. They also need omega-6 fatty acids. The correct ratio of these fats is essential for optimum immune health—5:1 omega-6 to omega-3. Providing the wrong kinds of fats to your dog or too much is very bad for their long-term health.
Finally, heating fats at high temperatures together with carbohydrates releases volatile compounds like aldehydes. These are possibly carcinogenic, and heat-treated fats and oils are a major source of free radicals in the canine body.
Can dogs eat microwaved popcorn?
Preferably, dogs should not eat microwave popcorn. The biggest problem with microwaved popcorn is the additives and flavorings on them. Any extra spices added to the microwaved popcorn can be a problem for your dog’s health and digestive tract. However, the biggest problem is that microwave popcorn is linked to a medical condition called “popcorn lung” that could affect your dog.
The chemical diacetyl is often used on microwave popcorn to give it a buttery taste. When inhaled in large amounts, diacetyl can cause massive lung damage.
Another reason is the packaging. Microwave popcorn typically comes in packages that contain perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). When they are heated, these chemicals migrate into the popcorn and are linked to cancers and other health issues. In short, microwave popcorn is not suitable for dogs.
What kind of popcorn can my dog eat?
The best kind of popcorn you can give your dog is plain (no salt, butter, or additives) and air-popped if fed in moderate amounts. An air popping machine doesn’t use fats for popping the corn, and this is a far safer way for both humans and dogs to eat popcorn.
Can dogs eat popcorn with salt?
Salt is the first basic flavoring added to popcorn, and dogs should not be fed popcorn to dogs. Too much salt in the dog diet is toxic. It can cause tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. Dogs with heart conditions, in particular, need a low-salt diet. So while sodium is a necessary part of a dog’s diet, an excess of it is very dangerous.
Can dogs eat popcorn kernels?
Dogs should not be allowed to eat popcorn kernels. These are not digestible and likely cause diarrhea or irritate the gut lining. If a dog eats enough popcorn kernels, they are a risk for impactions. They may require surgical removal or damage the intestines. This can be deadly
Can dogs eat popcorn with cheese?
Cheese is usually high in fat, artificial colors, and flavors. This is especially true when it is added to popcorn. Even natural colorants in cheese, such as annatto, have been known to cause seizures in children and animals. The “cheese” on popcorn is usually not real cheese, but rather a combination of oils, salts, flavorings, and dairy that are all bad for pets.
Appropriate cheese for dogs is mainly limited to cottage cheese. Even then, it needs to be reasonably incorporated into a balanced diet. Therefore, cheese-flavored popcorn or popcorn with cheese is a definite no-no for dogs.
Can dogs have buttered popcorn?
Like cheese, butter is high in saturated fat and has colorants and preservatives that are problematic for dogs. The high calories in butter are another reason that buttered popcorn is not a good canine treat.
On the other hand, heated butter actually releases fewer carcinogens than plant oils. Even so, butter is not a good fat for dogs, and they should not be fed buttered popcorn. Remember, excess fat in a canine diet leads to problems like diabetes, pancreatitis, and obesity.
Can dogs have caramelized popcorn?
Caramelized popcorn is off the table for dogs. The burnt sugar and fats in caramelized popcorn make it a double no-no. This is a high-calorie, sugary snack. It is bad for blood sugar levels and contains nearly 14 grams of sugar.
Caramelized sugar does contain trace amounts of riboflavin, folate, and calcium, but these are available from more nutritious sources. In short, no, do not feed your dog caramelized popcorn.
A small amount of plain air-popped popcorn with nothing added is probably fine for your dog. Remember that the unpopped kernels are dangerous for your dog’s gut. And the high-fiber content may upset your pup’s tummy, so moderation is key.
However, as an occasional treat, a bit of popcorn may even have some powerful antioxidants and be full of health benefits. But, be sure never to feed any popcorn with any added salt, butter, cheese, or other toppings.