Many of our favorite snacks are also pretty high on your pet’s agenda when it comes to tasty treats.
While many of us already know the ins and outs of what is and isn’t safe for dogs to eat – at least as far as conventional human snacks go – other foodstuffs are a little more tricky to pin down.
With that in mind, you might be cleaning up after movie night while your dog looks on, licking his or her chops, and wonder – can dogs eat popcorn?
Is popcorn good for dogs?
While the question of whether dogs can eat popcorn is a yes, the question of whether dogs should eat popcorn has a little bit more of a question mark over it.
That’s because of the additives, flavorings, oils and all sorts of other bits and pieces we put all over our popcorn.
As a basic, unflavoured, air-popped treat for your dog, popcorn is certainly not without its health benefits.
There are minerals like zinc, magnesium and also plenty of fiber in popcorn that dogs can certainly make good use of, so there’s no harm in tossing a few unflavoured popcorn pieces their way from time to time.
Even so, you’re likely to find that there are other foods or even dedicated supplements you can get from dog nutrition specialists and vets, that can offer these kinds of advantages to your dog much more naturally.
But of course, we all are slaves to the odd guilty pleasure, so certainly don’t feel as though you’re letting your dog down by sharing a little popcorn with him or her.
Just keep in mind that salted popcorn, especially, is not going to contribute to a healthy lifestyle for your pup.
Your dog is likely to enjoy popcorn massively in as big a dose as he or she can get their jaws around, but it’s important to ration out any popcorn you give your pet to only a piece or two, if at all.
Popcorn certainly shouldn’t be used as a meal replacement for your dog or a means by which to reward them for good behavior.
Again, it’s not a question of danger – popcorn isn’t bad for dogs as such – but rather simply a question of popcorn holding little nutritional value to your pet.
Dangers of popcorn for dogs
The good news to those of you worried about a dog eating popcorn is that there isn’t anything toxic, poisonous or altogether endangering to your pet’s health overall.
However, there are still certain aspects of this situation to keep in mind beyond the obvious nutritional questions.
For instance, the structure of popcorn is pretty unique, and it’s certainly not like anything your dog has likely come across before.
That’s bound to fire up plenty of curiosity in and of itself, especially if your dog is very young or just a puppy.
It’s always a good idea to supervise a dog who’s experiencing a new kind of food for the first time.
That’s especially true for what’s often called ‘people food’ – or the kinds of things that a dog wouldn’t come across naturally in the wild, had we never domesticated them.
The shape and texture of popcorn are pretty unusual even by people’s food standards though, so give your pet plenty of fuss and strokes if they’re trying it out for the first time.
Also be wary of unpopped kernels, which can remain in even store-bought bags of premade popcorn.
While technically speaking those raw kernels hold the greatest nutritional value, human beings certainly don’t enjoy chancing upon them when eating, and neither will your dog.
Although their teeth are far more equipped than ours to take them down, they present a choking hazard – as do larger pieces of popcorn that your dog may well wolf down a touch too optimistically.
However, as already discussed, many of the ways in which popcorn is unhealthy for your dog come from the same kinds of flavorings and toppings that are unhealthy for their masters.
Added sugars alone, as found in the sweet varieties of popcorn, give an increased risk of obesity and diabetes long term – to say nothing of the effects artificial sweeteners could have on your pet’s long term health.
Salt, sodium overall and fatty buttery popcorn flavors all can add some nasty oil ingredient to your dog’s insides too, especially over the long term.
Again, it’s not entirely unsafe for dogs to be tossed a treat of a popcorn piece or two, but there’s certainly nothing to be recommended in giving them meals of the stuff.
Remember, although dogs have far more robust nutritional systems inside them than we do, they’re similarly more fragile than we are in a lot of ways too.
Processed sugars, refined flavors and the kind of artificial stuff you find on popcorn nowadays means only pure air-popped popcorn is truly free of harmful long term ramifications.
But neither you or your dog would be keen on such a plain taste!
How much popcorn can a dog eat daily?
As with any treat that’s tasty but bad for us, it’s always a question of moderation – in human beings as much as in dogs and other pets.
Dogs also have a canny way of getting to us, knowing how to tilt their heads just so or perk their ears up just right to have us hand over the treats.
But in reality, anything more than a few pieces of popcorn every few days or so is likely to cause detrimental harm to your dog’s nutritional health and overall metabolism in the longer term.
It’s certainly not good advice to give popcorn to your dog daily if you can at all help it.
Imagine if a child came up to you daily asking for a big bag of popcorn – eventually, you’d have to say no.
Think of it the same way for your dog, even though he or she can’t speak the same language as you.
They’ll often ask us for things we know are bad for them, and once your dog first tries popcorn he or she may well try and hassle you for more.
Furthermore, if you live with children, definitely make sure you talk with them about throwing treats and snacks to the dog – including popcorn.
These seemingly harmless little acts of generosity are slowing down your pet in the long term, and although safe, could create health problems later.
If you’re looking for alternative treats for your dog instead of their own, brand name snacks, consider fruit or a vegetable that’s densely packed with goodies for dogs, like a carrot.
These kinds of treats can still be used for training and positive reinforcement, with none of the drawbacks popcorn has long term.
What to do if your dog eats popcorn
It may be that your pet chanced upon it in the kitchen unattended, or has been very naughty and rummaged through the garbage to find some popcorn to eat.
However your dog has found his or her new snack, the best you can do is discourage it.
You don’t need to worry about your dog’s health in the immediate term, and a one-off offense isn’t going to end their life – even if they’ve devoured an entire bag of popcorn and are looking about the place sniffing for seconds.
In fact, it’s likely that your dog is having the time of his or her life eating all this tasty stuff!
Nonetheless, there are other issues to think about, like whether kernels have got caught in the throat or teeth or are otherwise causing distress.
Popcorn is very dry, so it might be wise to make sure that your dog is kept well hydrated with some fresh water if they’ve had a large portion of it recently.
Another reason why dogs shouldn’t eat popcorn too habitually is that, in the long term, it can cause them dehydration issues due to the preservatives and additives – especially, once again, the salt.
As indicated earlier in this article, just because a dog can eat something, that doesn’t mean the same as suggesting that they should.
While popcorn in and of itself is harmless to your dog, as long as you avoid kernels and over-enthusiastic eating that could lead to retching and choking, the stuff we love to coat it in can mean some unpleasant health risks for your dog later down the line.
These could be fatty and circulatory as much as the risk of diabetes in the worst cases, depending on your dog’s overall diet.
If you drop a scrap or two of popcorn on your next family movie night and the dog laps it up, that’s no problem.
But if you’re dishing the dog up their own bowl, or just handing it out to him or her whenever the mood takes you, you might be doing fewer favors to your furry friend than you think.
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.