Whether your dog has just snuck sweet potato off your plate or you're considering sharing this snack, you need to know: Can dogs eat sweet potatoes? This root vegetable is actually a common ingredient in many dog foods, and dogs tend to digest sweet potato well, as long as it's cooked and not raw.
We've looked at the evidence, weighed the pros and cons, and come out in favor of this orange veggie. Learn the healthiest ways to feed your dog sweet potatoes so you can include them in your dog’s diet.
Can Dogs Eat Sweet Potatoes Raw or Cooked?
Sweet potatoes (and their cousin, yams) affect your dog's body differently depending on whether and how they're cooked. Here's a look at different ways to prepare sweet potatoes and whether or not they're OK for dogs.
Raw Sweet Potatoes: No
Raw sweet potatoes are too fibrous for your dog to safely digest. If they eat large quantities of raw sweet potato, it can build up in their digestive system and cause an intestinal blockage. Also known as a gastrointestinal obstruction, a blockage is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition.
Don't feed your dog raw sweet potato. If they eat it when you're not looking, watch them carefully for the next few days. Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, low energy levels, hunching, and whining are all signs of an intestinal blockage. Take your dog to the vet immediately if you notice any of these signs.
Baked Sweet Potatoes: Yes
If you bake a sweet potato until it's soft, you can share it with your dog — but don't add butter, salt, pepper, sugar, or marshmallows.
These toppings might be our favorites, but they aren't healthy for our dogs. And since dogs aren't as picky as we are, they'll think this tuber is perfectly tasty without toppings.
Boiled Sweet Potatoes: Yes
Boiling is likely the healthiest way to prepare sweet potatoes for your dog. This technique softens the skin and flesh of the potatoes, breaks down some of its starches, and might make the antioxidants and other nutrients easier to digest.
Boiled sweet potatoes also have a lower glycemic index than roasted sweet potatoes, which means they'll be less likely to spike your dog's blood sugar.
Fried Sweet Potatoes: No
If you're thinking of sharing sweet potato fries with your dog, think again. Frying is one of the least healthy preparations for any food, and fried foods are toxic to dogs.
Fried sweet potatoes are full of unhealthy fats, which can lead to pancreatitis if our dogs eat them in large quantities. Fried foods have also been linked to various types of cancer in humans.
While we dog owners may choose to eat fried foods anyway, our dogs can't make an educated choice — we have to choose for them.
Dehydrated Sweet Potatoes: Yes
The process for dehydrating a sweet potato is similar to baking, but you'll do it at a much lower temperature for much longer. You can make dehydrated sweet potatoes in your oven or in a dehydrator.
Once they're all dried out, store them at room temperature and use them as DIY dog treats. You can also find dehydrated sweet potatoes in our all-natural chicken bone broth for dogs. Use it as a collagen- and nutrient-rich topper on your pet's food, or turn it into a tasty homemade dog treat.
Potential Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes for Dogs
As long as you prepare it correctly — by baking, boiling, or dehydrating it without added spices or toppings — sweet potatoes can be a great snack for your furry friend. To get all the health benefits out of this orange veggie, leave the skin on. Sweet potato skin has nearly 10 times the amount of antioxidants as the rest of the veggie.
Here are the nutrients your pet can get from eating sweet potatoes:
- Vitamin C: This antioxidant helps support your dog's immune system. Your dog's body typically produces enough vitamin C on its own, so this is considered a non-essential nutrient. However, an extra dose can help support older dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems.
- Vitamin B6: This essential nutrient helps your dog's body produce proteins, hormones, and neurotransmitters.
- Beta-carotene: Your dog's body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, an essential nutrient that helps keep their skin, coat, nerves, and muscles functioning properly. This nutrient is also abundant in mango, papaya, carrots, and pumpkin for dogs.
- Calcium: This mineral is essential for healthy growth. But even if your dog is done growing, they need calcium to support their bones, muscles, and nervous system.
- Potassium: As an electrolyte, potassium helps your dog's heart, nerves, and muscles function correctly. It can also help them maintain healthy energy levels.
Potential Risks of Sweet Potatoes for Dogs
Anytime you feed your dog a new food, there's a risk that it won't go down well — even if it's a dog-friendly whole food. While sweet potatoes are considered safe for dogs in the short-term (they're non-toxic, and dog owners report very few adverse reactions), the long-term effects of feeding dogs sweet potatoes is poorly understood.
Any new food can cause an upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea, especially if you feed it in large quantities. Fruits and veggies are even more likely to cause these reactions because of their high dietary fiber.
This bears repeating: Feeding dogs raw sweet potato can lead to an intestinal blockage. If you notice any of the signs of intestinal blockage that we mentioned, go to your vet immediately.
High Glycemic Index
While boiling sweet potatoes can decrease their glycemic index, the number remains high compared to many other fruits and vegetables. This isn't a concern for healthy dogs, but If you have a diabetic dog, or if your dog suffers from obesity, steer clear of this orange veggie.
Grain-Free Dog Food and Sweet Potatoes
The FDA is currently investigating a potential link between grain-free dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a type of heart disease, in dogs. While heart disease used to be rare in dogs, cases of DCM have been increasing in correlation with the increased popularity of grain-free diets.
There's a perception among dog owners that grain-free food is low in carbohydrates, but this is inaccurate.
Pet food companies need to include carbs in their kibble or the food won't hold its shape. (It would be closer to a powder than a cereal texture.) So, the main difference between grain-free and traditional kibble is not the carb content but the type of carbs used.
Traditional kibbles typically include grains like wheat, corn, and rice. Higher end options will rely on whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and barley — all of which are well-tested and safe for dogs.
To make grain-free dog food, pet food manufacturers swap out grains for high-carb vegetables, like legumes, white potatoes, and (you guessed it) sweet potatoes.
Based on the current status of the FDA's investigation, pulses — a type of legume that includes peas and lentils (but not soy, which appears safe) — are at the top of the FDA's list of suspects. Of the reported diets associated with DCM, 93% contained pulses. Only 42% contained potatoes and sweet potatoes.
We should point out that the FDA's charts combine potatoes and sweet potatoes into one category. (Even though they're starchy veggies that share a similar name, potatoes and sweet potatoes aren't related and come from completely different plant families.) So, the actual percentage of recipes that contained sweet potatoes is likely even lower than 42%.
The FDA investigation is still open, but at present, it appears that potatoes and sweet potatoes are not the main culprits behind the increasing rates of heart disease.
When it comes to caring for our furry friends, every pet owner has to establish their own boundaries. All we can say is this: As dog owners ourselves, we don't give our dogs grain-free pet food, peas, or lentils, but we do give them sweet potatoes.
So, Can Dogs Eat Sweet Potatoes?
In the short term, dogs can eat sweet potatoes. This veggie is full of nutrients that can benefit your dog's body, and it has very few short-term risks. Like all new foods, sweet potatoes can cause an upset stomach when you introduce them into your dog's diet. Start out by feeding small qualities of this food — just a few bites at a time — and support your dog's system with probiotics and pumpkin.
Based on the current information we have from the FDA investigation into grain-free diets, it looks like pulses, and not sweet potatoes, are the risky ingredients in these foods. However, if you prefer to proceed with the utmost caution, you can add pumpkin to your dog's diet instead to provide similar nutritional value.
For more information on your pet's health and wellness, visit the Native Pet blog.