Of course, what is healthy and wholesome for you isn’t always so for your dog. Dogs have different digestive abilities and nutritional needs, which means dog owners have to be discerning about what they feed their pets. If you are considering giving your dog some popcorn, here is what you need to know about the pros and cons of doing so.
Is Popcorn Safe for Dogs?
The answer is yes, and no. Popcorn is safest to eat for dogs in its pure form. That means no butter, oils, powders, or additives. Once you start adding toppings to the popcorn, it becomes a significantly less palatable option.
Generally speaking, dogs can eat “human” foods that are unprocessed or all-natural. When it comes to vegetables, think sweet potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. The way you serve and eat these foods often closely resembles the product that farmers pulled from the ground.
While there are always exceptions, like garlic and onions, dogs fair worse when foods have more processing between the farm and the checkout line. That is because a dog’s bodies have a challenging time breaking down these artificial ingredients. Common foods to avoid, other than popcorn with butter, include chocolate, dairy products, candy, and peanut butter with xylitol.
Can Dogs Eat Popcorn-Related Products?
Popcorn is corn at its core, and corn is in everything. For instance, it is in anything with high fructose corn syrup. That can include but is not limited to salad dressing, yogurt, canned fruit, milk, and soda.
If you want to feed your pooch some kernels of corn, though, or cornbread, you will be all right. The closer the corn is to resembling the natural product, the better. That said, you should try to steer clear of popcorn balls, caramel corn, and other processed versions of the grain.
Popcorn is a relatively healthy food, especially without added salt or butter. The kernels have nutritional value, such as iron, calcium, copper, potassium, and a wealth of vitamins. According to registered dietitian Kayla McDonell, “popcorn is one of the world’s healthiest and most popular snack foods.”
Part of the nutrition prowess of popcorn comes from the fact that it is a whole grain food. This preserves the essential vitamins and nutrients, instead of losing them to processing. One benefit is a sizeable 15 percent fiber content, which makes it one of the most fibrous foods in the world.
A diet high in fiber can improve digestive health and aid in the facilitation of regular bowel movements. It can also leave dogs more easily satiated. That is because fiber simulates fullness, which allows dogs to eat fewer calories and manage their weight. As a point of reference, a group of researchers in Florida found that eating 15 calories worth of popcorn is as filling as eating 150 calories worth of potato chips.
Additionally, popcorn has a specific antioxidant called polyphenol. The compound combats the potential damage of free radicals on body cells and can lead to physical benefits, such as better circulation and digestion. Polyphenol may even help lower your dog’s risk of prostate cancer.
Once dog owners begin to stray away from natural popcorn, there are more liabilities for health drawbacks. That’s because there are more processed ingredients, such as hydrogenated oils and artificial flavorings. They can also jack up the calorie count. A study from the Center for Science in the Public Interest found a large popcorn tin from Regal Cinemas has upwards of 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fats.
The high salt and butter contents can create health problems. Salt poisoning or hypernatremia is a condition that spikes the level of water in the body. As a result, dogs may experience headaches, high fever, confusion, convulsions, and even death.
Similarly, butter can lead to severe conditions, such as pancreatitis. This process causes significant inflammation in the pancreas, which can leave your pet in crippling pain. It is also worth mentioning that kernels of corn can get stuck in the teeth and poses a choking hazard, especially for smaller dogs. These diseases could significantly add up to the medical cost but can be covered by the dog health insurance.
Summing It Up
More often than not, popcorn is a safe snack for your pooch to enjoy. The caveat comes when the popcorn is bathed in butter or slathered in salt. These variations have the potential to cause adverse health consequences that easily circumvented by not serving popcorn.
The essential part of feeding your dog a non-traditional snack is to remember moderation. The rule of thumb is 90/10. The idea is that you should give your canine regular dry or wet dog food 90 percent of the time, with the remaining 10 percent going to whatever snacks or treats you have in store.
Related: Can Dogs Eat Pistachios?