Can Dogs Eat Popcorn? Is It Dangerous?

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can dogs eat popcorn

The answer is yes, your dog can eat popcorn. When popcorn is air-popped with nothing else added, it is quite a healthy snack that can be enjoyed by humans and in moderation by dogs too

You see, the problem with popcorn, as with many other foods, is not the popcorn itself but what you add to it. 

So Can Dogs Eat Popcorn Safely?

The problem is, it’s pretty boring served plain and makes a perfect vessel to carry yummy toppings such as butter, salt, sugar, caramel, or other seasonings.

These added extras are usually too high in sodium, fat, and sugar and can cause problems including:

  • Dehydration from salt content
  • Kidney damage from salt if eaten regularly
  • Digestive problems 
  • Diarrhea from upset stomach 
  • Obesity if fed too much too often

The unpopped kernels are another issue and can be a choking hazard, not to mention those pesky husks that get stuck between your teeth and irritate the gums.

Food Allergies

Just like you, your dog may be allergic to certain things, which sometimes include foods. Beef is by far the greatest allergic trigger, but corn can also be a less common problem. 

When allergens are absorbed into the body, they create an immune response that releases histamine resulting in inflammation. 

Indications of this include itching, skin reddening, and swelling. There is only one way to protect your dog from a known allergen and that is by complete avoidance.

Dogs with sensitivity to corn may also suffer from gas, stomach upset, and diarrhea, so keep an eye out after feeding.

Nutritional Values of Popcorn

Nutritionally, popcorn is relatively healthy for both people and dogs. It contains[1]: 

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Zinc

It is high in carbohydrates, fiber and has the greatest amount of protein of any grain. It also contains antioxidants known as polyphenols that protect cells from free radicals.

In human studies[2] these polyphenols have been shown to be beneficial and may improve digestive health and circulation. 

They may even lower the instance of some diseases[3], including cancer. It is therefore not unreasonable to believe that they may also be beneficial to dogs.

Just like us, our pets need a balanced diet. But what’s best for people isn’t best for your dog. 

Their nutritional requirements are different from humans. Dogs don’t need high quantities of carbohydrates, so it is always best to provide them with a nutritionally balanced diet that has been carefully created by experts in the form of premium-quality dog food.

What is Popcorn Made From?

Popcorn is the dried kernels of corn, also called maize, that is heated causing them to expand and explode. 

At the heart of a dried corn kernel is a tiny quantity of water. It is the expansion of that water when subjected to heat, that causes the kernel to blow up. 

By volume, popcorn is the most enjoyed snack in America[4] and around 1.2 billion lbs are eaten each year. 

Can I Give My Dog Microwave Popcorn?

popcorn in microwave

Popcorn can also be popped using a microwave. However, it is more difficult to control the process than with an air-popper. This can result in burning that carbonizes the popped corn.

Pre-packaged popcorn that you put into the microwave often contains PFOA (the chemical – perfluorooctanoic acid). This has been associated with various health concerns. 

Studies have shown it may cause breathing problems from damaged airways and even cause lung disease.[5]

These types of popcorn also use hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans-fatty acids, which are linked to several serious diseases.[6]

Other additives can also make pre-packaged popcorn very high in calories. As you can see, the way popcorn is prepared greatly impacts its nutritional quality.

Air Popped Popcorn

air popped popcorn

If you make popcorn for yourself and want to share a little with your dog, it’s best to ensure it is only air-popped and has no other ingredients added.

If you’re going to add a topping, remove a portion for your dog first. Ensure you discard all the unpopped kernels and only ever give a small amount.

Any treat foods you give your pet should only make up a maximum of 10% of their daily food intake.

Why Does My Dog Love Popcorn?

If you’re a dog owner, you’ll undoubtedly know that dogs love many of the same foods that we do, and popcorn is just one of them. 

We can’t say for sure exactly why a dog likes a particular food, but we can only guess it is to do with the smell, taste, and texture, just like it is for us. 

A canine’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than our own. 

They can detect volatile organic compounds down to a sensitivity of one part per trillion. That’s one impressive schnoz right there! 

Surprisingly perhaps, a dog’s sense of taste is poorer than his owners. Humans have around 9,000 taste buds, while dogs only have approximately 1,700. 

Studies show that just like us, dogs can differentiate between salty, sweet, bitter, and sour and even have taste buds specifically designed for water, which we lack.

What Alternatives Should You Feed Your Dog?

If you want to feed your dog some treats, there are safer alternatives than popcorn that also come with a nutritious boost. When adding these treats, consider these fruits and vegetables.

You can test out these different snacks to determine what your dog likes. A proper diet should contain meat, grains, vegetables, and fruits [7].

Your dog’s ideal diet should facilitate the functioning of various hormones and enzymes. Their bodies need vitamins for immunity boost and cell protection, while minerals contribute to cell formation.

What Are The Potential Side Effects of Popcorns For Dogs?

Popcorn by itself is not harmful to dogs. However, the flavors that humans add, such as salt, oil, butter, or sugar, could harm your pup’s health.

Before adding any new food to your pet’s diet, it’s advisable to talk to your vet and get advice on the best options.

So what makes the popcorn unsafe? Here are some things to consider.

The Additives

Fats, oils, and sugar can cause an obesity problem. Different dog breeds face an obesity risk; therefore, feeding them popcorn with dairy products or butter is fattening.

When making popcorns, you’ll mostly add flavors such as caramel and other seasonings, which also contain too much sugar and salt, which is harmful to your dog’s health.

Salty toppings have high sodium complications and could easily lead to dehydration. High sodium levels result in salt toxicity or ion poisoning [8], which requires urgent veterinary care.

Popcorn is a starch-based carbohydrate, and some dogs don’t have the proper enzymes in their saliva to digest these types of carbohydrates.

If you want to learn more about dogs’ digestion, read our article on How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Digest Food.

Also, keep in mind that too much oil or butter at once can result in an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Choking Hazard

Popped and unpopped popcorn can present a choking hazard for dogs. Once your pup eats more popcorn at once than they should, it could easily get lodged in their throat.

If your dog is much older or still a puppy, it’s also advisable to avoid feeding them popcorn because of the choking risk. They might not manage to chew well is highly risky.

Instead, the diet should contain foods rich in protein and other nutrients that boost the body’s immunity system rather than popcorn.

Harmful Unpopped Kernels

When making popcorns, you might have some unpopped kernels. These kernels typically get stuck on human teeth during eating. The same will happen to your dog, which is harmful to its teeth and digestive system.

To keep your dog safe, have a toothbrush to remove stuck fragments or drinking water. If you have to feed your pup popcorns, ensure they are air-popped.

Furthermore, if the kernels remain lodged along your dog’s gum line, your dog could experience tooth decay or gum disease over time. Therefore, there’s no point putting your dog through all this trouble.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Has Consumed Popcorn

After you feed your dogs popcorn or they consume some by mistake, you’ll need to closely monitor them for any side effects, especially choking.

Additionally, you’ll need to observe if your pup experiences any gastrointestinal complications. Excess salt, sugar, or dairy toppings can result in constipation, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Also, check whether your dog has lost appetite for food, is eating normally, and note if it’s experiencing an increase in body temperatures.

If your pup exhibits any further complications and symptoms, you need to schedule an appointment with the vet for observation. You can also take this as a precautionary measure, especially if it’s the first time your dog has eaten popcorn.

The Bottom Line

In summary, dogs can eat popcorn as an occasional treat and in moderation. While popcorn has some nutrients, it’s not enough to cater to your dog’s entire nutritional needs, and you’ll need to prioritize regular dog food.

As consumed by humans, popcorn can be harmful to your dog due to the high amount of sugar, fat, salt, and dairy toppings. These additives are risky to the pup’s health, especially if they are obese or diabetic.

To avoid health problems, you should feed your dog air-popped or plain popcorn without any additives. In addition, you should also closely monitor and observe your pet in case they choke from the kernels.

Whether your dog is healthy or has medical issues, you should still talk to a vet before introducing popcorn to their diet.

To learn more about the ideal dog’s diet, read more in our article How Much Should I Feed My Dog.

Photo of author
Diana Nadim
My name is Diana, a travel enthusiast, and a pet lover who believes that our animal friends deserve the best. I'm passionate about the well-being of animals, big or small. Through writing, I offer practical and helpful advice backed by research. I provide sources to the research data I find to ensure my readers always get the best and most accurate knowledge and information on the internet.

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