Movie night and popcorn are the perfect pairing, and it wouldn’t be complete without your furry friend by your side. Besides being the perfect cuddle buddy, chances are your pup is more than happy to serve as the clean-up crew for the “accidentally” dropped popcorn or treat. But is it safe to share popcorn with your pup? The short answer is yes, but only in small quantities and when the popcorn is plain and air-popped. However, most people prefer this airy treat covered in butter, salt, or other delicious toppings, which may be dangerous for dogs.
It may be hard to resist your pooch’s longing eyes and drooling gaze into your bowl of popcorn. But before giving your pup a movie night snack, ensure you understand the safety considerations and ways to feed your dog popcorn safely.
Additionally, always check with your veterinarian before offering your dog any new people food or treats to ensure it is safe and not contraindicated with any potential medications, diseases, or allergies your pup may suffer.
What is Popcorn, and Is Plain Popcorn Safe for Dogs?
Popcorn is a dried, hardened form of corn that fluffs up when heated. Corn is a common ingredient in many commercial dog foods and contains minerals like magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. Corn and popcorn also contain fiber. Generally, plain, air-popped popcorn without any seasonings, flavorings, or additives is a dog-safe snack in moderation. However, like people, some dogs may not tolerate corn, so it’s always good to check with your veterinarian and feed only one or two pieces at first to gauge your dog’s tolerance.
Dogs with food allergies should steer clear of popcorn, especially if they are fed an allergy-specific diet or undergoing a diet trial to determine their underlying food allergies. Although popcorn contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals, it has no added nutritional benefit for your dog, especially if they already eat an AAFCO-approved pet food. However, the occasional treat, like plain popcorn, can be a great way to maintain and strengthen the bond with your dog and reward good doggy manners.
Dangers of Popcorn Consumption in Dogs
Popcorn may be an easy, quick snack to share with your pup. However, consuming too much or feeding your dog popcorn with additional flavorings can sometimes be dangerous or deadly. Accidents can happen at any time, and if your dog sneakily ingests some of your buttered, flavored, or unpopped corn kernels, they may be at risk for the following:
Gastrointestinal (GI) Upset
Small amounts of plain popcorn can be a safe treat. However, if your dog overeats, they are at risk for GI problems, like upset stomach, gas, food bloat, or vomiting. Excess fiber can also lead to diarrhea in dogs.
A single piece of buttered popcorn may not be immediately problematic. However, closely monitor your pup for any adverse effects because rich, fatty foods, like butter, are difficult for dogs to digest. Feeding your dog buttered popcorn can put them at risk for pancreatitis. This potentially deadly inflammatory condition can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration.
Never feed your dog salted popcorn. Salt is toxic to dogs and leads to GI problems, excess thirst and urination, dehydration, seizures, and death in some cases. Immediately contact your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has ingested salt.
Unpopped or partially popped kernels are dangerous and can be a choking hazard, especially for small-breed dogs. Remove any kernels that did not pop before giving your dog a piece of popcorn. Popcorn kernels can also lead to GI blockage or obstruction in dogs.
Partial or unpopped kernels can become stuck between your dog’s teeth, leading to dental decay and painful periodontal disease.
Weight Gain and Obesity
Although plain popcorn is lower in calories, feeding too much of any treat can lead to weight gain and obesity in your pup.
Types of Popcorn to Avoid Feeding Dogs
Pre-popped corn and microwave popcorn often contain additional flavorings, salt, oils, or other dangerous ingredients. From savory to sweet, numerous popcorn varieties are available, so always check the bag for pet-toxic components before offering your dog any popcorn. Although sugar is not toxic, excess sugar can lead to GI problems, diseases like diabetes, and weight gain. Some sweet popcorn may contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can cause dangerously low blood sugar, liver disease, and death in dogs. Immediately call your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has ingested any xylitol.
Generally, plain, air-popped popcorn is the only safe way to feed your pup for an occasional treat. Never feed your dog the following popcorn types:
- Caramel popcorn
- Kettle corn
- Salted and/or buttered popcorn
- Cheese popcorn
- Popcorn mixed with any nuts, especially macadamia nuts
- Popcorn made with butter or oil (i.e., peanut oil, canola oil, seed oil, avocado oil)
- Microwave popcorn
- Movie popcorn
How to Safely Feed Popcorn to Dogs
Sharing a small amount of plain popcorn during movie night is a special way to bond with your dog. But ensure you are safely feeding your dog popcorn by following these tips:
- Air pop the kernels without any oil, flavoring, or seasoning, and set aside a small amount for your pup.
- Remove any unpopped or partially popped kernels.
- Offer one or two pieces and monitor your dog closely for adverse reactions.
- Avoid feeding large amounts of popcorn to prevent GI problems.
- Keep a probiotic on hand to help rebalance your dog’s gut flora if they accidentally consume too much popcorn.
- Never leave your dog unsupervised when a bowl of popcorn is within paw’s reach.
- For dogs with allergies or popcorn sensitivities, provide them with a new toy to distract them when you are eating popcorn.
- Consider alternate dog treats during movie night, like Native Pet Yak Chews; these long-lasting chews can also be microwaved into a puffy treat.
Plain, air-popped popcorn can be a quick, easy, and fun treat to share with your pup. However, moderation is critical, and you should always check with your veterinarian before adding any human food to your dog’s diet.
For more information and tips on your dog’s health, check out the Native Pet blog.