It never fails: You curl up to watch a movie on Saturday night, and just when it starts getting good, you hear whining — and see puppy-dog eyes.
Yep, your dog wants some of your popcorn.
But should you share? The answer is complicated, but it’s probably better if you reserve this one snack just for you. While popcorn itself is safe for dogs, it comes with a few precautions.
To find out why popcorn can be bad for your dog — as well as when it can be okay — read on.
Is Popcorn Safe for Dogs?
To answer this question properly, we have to divide the popcorn into three parts: unpopped kernels, popped kernels, and toppings.
Plain, unsalted popped kernels are generally fine for dogs. They do have limited nutritional value, but for the most part, they’re just a tasty treat.
Unpopped kernels are not nearly as safe. They can crack a dog’s tooth if they’re chomped on and can form an obstruction in the bowels if they’re not, so it’s a lose-lose proposition.
The toppings are also bad for dogs. Butter is extremely high in fat, which could lead to potentially fatal issues like pancreatitis. Likewise, salt is bad for dogs in large amounts, and salt poisoning could also be fatal.
Luckily, though, it would take quite a bit of popcorn to trigger either condition, so a few pieces here and there should be fine.
Are There Any Health Benefits to Eating Popcorn?
There are a few, but they’re mostly not worth mentioning.
There’s a little bit of fiber, as well as B vitamins, protein, and iron. However, your dog would have to eat a large amount to see any health benefits from it, and those would be counterbalanced by the issues noted above.
So, while popcorn has a few vitamins and minerals in it, don’t look at it as a health food for your pup.
Are There Any Other Dangers to Be Aware Of?
Yes, a big one: the bag.
The bag is possibly the most dangerous part of having popcorn around, at least as far as your dog is concerned. Dogs, especially smaller breeds, can get their heads stuck inside the bag while rooting around for spare kernels, causing them to suffocate.
Additionally, your pup may be tempted to eat the bag, especially if it’s coated in butter. This can lead to an obstruction in the bowels, which could prove fatal if surgery isn’t performed in time.
Beyond that, the only other major concern is the oil you popped it in, assuming that you used any. Be sure to dispose of it promptly and safely, or else your dog could burn themselves or experience digestive issues from eating it.
What Are Safe Alternatives to Popcorn for Dogs?
You don’t necessarily have to find any alternatives. You can give your dog plain, popped kernels — just be sure to pick out all the unpopped ones first.
If you really want to give your dog a treat, put popped kernels on a baking sheet and cover them with reduced-fat cheese and bacon bits. It makes a delicious snack for both you and your pet.
You can also add popcorn to a small ball of peanut butter, then roll it in extra virgin olive oil. Let it set for a few minutes, then offer it to your dog (or eat it yourself). Your pup will love the crunch, but don’t give them too many of these popcorn balls, as these are extremely calorie-dense snacks.
Beyond that, though, you should mainly focus on feeding your pet dog-appropriate treats. While they may not want to hear it, dogs don’t need popcorn, so you’re not being mean by saying no.
So, What’s the Verdict? Can Dogs Eat Popcorn?
Yes, dogs can eat plain, unsalted popcorn and limited amounts of the regular stuff, but there’s no reason to share this snack with your pup.
It has limited nutritional value, and there’s always the chance that your dog could get injured if they get into the bag or come across a stray unpopped kernel.