Can Dogs Eat Popcorn

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Movie night at home isn't complete without a big bowl of popcorn. But if you have a dog, you may get glances at your food or look down to see your dog begging with their puppy eyes. Since it's normal to want to share food with your dog, you may wonder, "Can my dog eat popcorn?" In general, plain, air-popped (microwaved or with an air fryer) popcorn is relatively safe for dogs to eat when fed in moderation. However, since popcorn is often seasoned with butter, salt, and popcorn seasoning, it's typically best not to share this popular movie snack with your dog unless you know what's in it. 

Plain, air-popped popcorn is relatively safe for dogs to eat when fed in moderation

Is it Safe For Your Dog to Eat Popcorn?

Can dogs eat popcorn? Technically, yes, but some types of popcorn are not safe for your dog; in fact, most types aren't. Microwave popcorn you buy in bags at the grocery store is typically flavored with butter or other types of seasonings. However, if you air-pop plain popcorn at home, your dog can eat it.1 That being said, your dog should not eat more than a few pieces since it's not necessarily good for them. Plain popcorn shouldn't cause adverse reactions in dogs, but it doesn't contain nutrients your dog isn't already consuming through their regular diets. 

Dogs can eat plain popcorn only in moderation since it can lead to weight gain. Additionally, you should never feed your dog popcorn if you don't know what's in it.

Potential side effects of feeding your dog popcorn

Side Effects of Feeding Your Dog Popcorn

Can a dog eat popcorn? Yes, but while plain, air-popped popcorn is non-toxic to dogs, there are several risks associated with feeding your dog any type of popcorn, including:

  • GI Issues: Popcorn contains fiber, and too much fiber can cause GI issues in dogs with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation. In addition, some dogs might have sensitive stomachs, and feeding them any human food could cause unpleasant GI symptoms. 
  • Salt Toxicity: Most people flavor their popcorn with salt, but is salt bad for dogs? Dogs are susceptible to salt toxicity, which can occur when they get too much salt in their diet. In addition, too much salt can lead to dehydration. 
  • Choking: Popcorn can be dangerous for dogs in other ways. Kernels are a potential dog choking hazard, especially for small dogs. Additionally, kernels can get stuck between dogs' teeth, causing dental issues like gum infections. Since dogs can't floss, the popcorn can get stuck in their teeth and decay, making their mouth a breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria that can lead to infections and periodontal disease. 
  • Weight Gain & Obesity: All foods contain calories, and if your dog eats a well-balanced diet, they don't need additional calories. Some dogs are more susceptible to weight gain, even by consuming just a few extra calories a day. Your dog doesn't need as many calories as you do, so they gain weight faster. While a few pieces of popcorn are unlikely to cause weight gain, popcorn should only be fed in moderation to prevent weight gain, obesity, and associated illnesses. 

How to Safely Give Your Dog Popcorn

If you plan to share popcorn with your dog, always do it safely. Since most people don't like plain popcorn, you can set aside a small portion of plain popcorn for your dog and only add seasonings to your portion. If this is your dog's first time eating popcorn, only give them a small amount and monitor them to see if they have a negative reaction. 

If your dog doesn't experience a negative reaction, you can assume the popcorn hasn't upset their stomachs, and they're not allergic to it. However, if your dog experiences any GI issues like gas, diarrhea, or vomiting, they should not have any amount of popcorn in the future. 

Of course, never add seasonings to the popcorn you plan to share with your dog. Butter, salt, garlic, and popcorn seasonings are harmful to pets and can contribute to weight gain or cause GI issues. Additionally, once you've finished air popping the kernels, remove unpopped or partially popped kernels and only offer your dog fully popped popcorn to avoid potential choking hazards. 

What Can Dogs Eat?

Technically, no human foods offer dogs health benefits because your dog is already getting the nutrients they need through their regular diet. However, since popcorn is low in nutritional value, there are some healthier options to share with your dog. Here are a few healthier alternatives to popcorn for dogs:

  • Cheese: Some dogs are lactose intolerant, but cheese is generally a safe alternative to popcorn in moderation. 2
  • Peanut Butter: There's a reason many companies have started making their own peanut butter for dogs; dogs love peanut butter. You can even use peanut butter to engage your dog in an activity by getting them a lick mat or putting it in a treat dispensing toy to mentally stimulate them while you eat your popcorn.2 
  • Vegetables: Many veggies, including carrots, celery, green beans, and canned pumpkin, are safe for dogs and even healthier than popcorn because they're low in fat, carbs, and calories. When sharing vegetables with your dog, chop them up into small pieces to avoid choking hazards.3 
  • Fruit: Some fruit, including apples, bananas, cucumbers, blueberries, and strawberries, are safe for dogs, but they should be cut up into small pieces and any pits and seeds removed since many pits contain trace amounts of cyanide that can be dangerous to your dog's health in large quantities. 

Knowing what dogs can't eat is just as important as knowing what they can since many human foods are actually toxic or dangerous to your pet's health. If you're ever unsure if something is safe for your pet, you can consult a vet or avoid giving it to them until you have your answer. 

While all of these are non-toxic and considered safe for dogs, they can still cause mild GI upset, especially in dogs with sensitive stomachs. If your dog vomits after eating, it could indicate a food allergy or intolerance, so you should stop feeding them immediately and monitor them for signs of illness. Of course, dogs can get GI symptoms from a range of illnesses, including anxiety and worms in dogs, so if your dog has GI issues for more than a day, consult your vet to ensure they're not suffering from something more serious. 

Can Dogs Eat Popcorn: FAQs

What do I do if my dog ate popcorn?

If your dog ate popcorn, they should be monitored for signs of an allergic reaction or illness. If your dog accidentally ate a few pieces of popcorn, it's likely not cause for concern, especially if it's plain popcorn. While buttered and salted popcorn isn't good for dogs, it should not cause a serious reaction unless they consume a large quantity. However, if you seasoned your popcorn with something else, check the ingredients list to ensure it doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients to dogs like garlic or xylitol. 

If your dog starts acting strange or showing signs of GI upset, consult a vet as soon as possible because it could indicate poisoning or an allergic reaction. In moderation, plain popcorn should not cause any adverse reactions in dogs, but every dog is different, and some may experience an upset stomach when consuming anything that's not their regular dog food or treats. 

How much popcorn can you give a dog?

How much popcorn you give a dog depends on their health and size. For example, large breeds can consume more popcorn than small dogs without gaining weight. Meanwhile, how much to feed a puppy depends on the age of the dog and whether they should consume popcorn. However, some dogs should not consume popcorn. For example, overweight and diabetic dogs may be on a restricted diet or weight loss plan that prevents them from eating any human foods, even plain popcorn. Therefore, always consult your vet before feeding your dog any human foods to ensure it's safe for them and won't cause any adverse side effects. 

If your dog doesn't experience any side effects from eating popcorn, they should only be fed small amounts in moderation; popcorn should not become an everyday snack for your dog. Instead, tossing them a few pieces of plain popcorn while you're watching a movie together will be enough to keep them satisfied and happy. 

Can dogs eat buttered popcorn?

No, dogs should not eat any seasoned popcorn, including buttered popcorn or salted popcorn. Therefore, if you're wondering, "Can dogs eat caramel popcorn?" you should know they can't because popcorn made with oil, butter, salt, cheese, or any toppings like caramel can be dangerous to your dog's health. Even though caramel is not toxic to dogs, it has high sugar content that can lead to obesity or cause a drop in blood sugar levels that can be dangerous to diabetic dogs. 

If you plan to share popcorn with your dog, make sure it's plain and unbuttered. It should also not be cooked in any oil, so you'll have to air-pop it to ensure your dog isn't consuming any potentially dangerous oils that could cause GI issues. 

A dog with popcorn on their nose

Final Notes

Plain, air-popped popcorn is a safe snack to share with your dog from time to time. However, not all popcorn is safe for pets. When feeding your dog popcorn, always make sure it's unbuttered, unseasoned, and not popped in oil. Popcorn seasonings can be dangerous to your dog's health, potentially causing GI upset or allergies in healthy dogs and worsening symptoms in dogs with health conditions like diabetes. 

Wondering what human foods are safe for your pet? Always talk to a vet before sharing new foods with your pet to ensure they're safe. Dutch can help you determine which foods are safe for your dog depending on their health, age, and weight. We can also help you find the best dog food to ensure your dog gets all the nutrients needed to stay healthy and strong. Talk to a Dutch vet today. 

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References

  1. Burke, Anna. "Can Dogs Eat Popcorn?" American Kennel Club, 1 Sept. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-popcorn/.

  2. "People Food Dogs Can Eat and Can't Eat." American Kennel Club, 3 Apr. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/human-foods-dogs-can-and-cant-eat/.

  3. "Sharing Is Caring: Foods You Can Safely Share with Your Pet." ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/news/sharing-caring-foods-you-can-safely-share-your-pet.

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