Can Dogs Eat Popcorn? Fact Checked By Our Vet
Sharing treats with your dog can feel like second nature. It’s always nice to share and they are asking, after all! Well, it’s not that simple.
Many of our treats can actually have very dangerous effects on your pup. So, can dogs eat popcorn? The short answer is: only a specific kind, and not every day. Want to know more?
What You Need To Know About Popcorn
Crunchy, salty and full of flavour, popcorn is a staple in many houses. But no matter how much you love your dog, it really shouldn’t part of their everyday diet. In fact, some of the compounds found in commercial popcorn can actually be very dangerous! Here’s what we know about dogs and popcorn.
Dogs that eat popcorn have a higher risk of choking
The main risk you have when feeding your dog popcorn doesn’t come from the food itself, but from its size. Popcorn is small and, unlike many foods, the kernel doesn’t break down in the mouth. Ask your vet, many dogs go to the ER every year for partially popped kernel shells and full kernels getting stuck in their throats. The risk is higher if you have a small dog, a young pup or a dog that tends to swallow food whole instead of munching down on it.
Popcorn can damage teeth
Raw peels and grains can also pose a threat to your dog's oral health. On the one hand, kernels are very hard and can scratch your dog’s palate and gums while eating. On the other one, the unique shape of popcorn makes it easy for pieces to get stuck between the teeth. Unless you follow up with a thorough brushing, the pieces will stay between the teeth and might be the main cause of gum disease or tooth decay.
Up until this point, we’ve only covered the dangers of actual popcorns. But the added seasonings can be even worse for your dog’s health.
All the extras we love, including salt, butter, caramel and spices, can be harmful to your dog and should be avoided. If your dog eats seasoned popcorn massively, it may be expose them to a variety of side effects including:
Salt can poison your dog
Excessive salt ingestion can be extremely dangerous. On average, a healthy adult dog should not have more than 10 mg of sodium per kilogram of body weight per day. However, most common brands of microwave popcorn contain between 150 and 300 mg per serving!
Salt poisoning causes a medical condition called ‘hypernatremia’. Treatment of this condition can only be held by a licensed vet and your dog will probably be taken in to be monitored and hooked to an IV.
Microwave Popcorn can be very dangerous
Up until now, we’ve covered popcorn as a general thing. However, if choosing between air-popped, homemade popcorn and microwaveable one, always choose homemade.
The packaging of microwaveable popcorn has many chemicals with negative side effects for both humans and people. These include cancer and dangerous lung conditions. The bags of microwave popcorn have perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). These PFCs break down with heat into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical suspected of causing cancer.
The link between these compounds and cancer is so strong that some countries banned them and popcorn bags should not contain them. However, dozens of new packaging chemicals have been introduced. So far researchers know very about the safety of these other chemicals and it’s best to avoid them.
PRO TIP: Offer low calorie dog treats or make some dried fruit or chewy veggies as a safe and healthy homemade option.
PRO TIP: If you’re eating popcorn yourself, vacuum immediately after. Popcorn always finds its way into couch cushions and onto the floor, where our dogs are happy to “hoover” them up.
PRO TIP: Examine your dog’s mouth the day after you’ve eaten popcorn. Clean their teeth and make sure there are no pieces stuck.
Consequences Of Eating Popcorn For Dogs
As we already mentioned, popcorn shouldn’t be a treat. Here are some of its nasty side effects:
- Dehydration: this has to do with excessive salt consumption.
- Kidney problems. Caused by excessive salt intake.
- Gastrointestinal upset. This is usually caused by excessive salt and butter, and might include vomiting and diarrhea.
- Salt poisoning, which can lead to muscle tremors, and even seizures.
How To Know If Your Dog Is Choking On Popcorn
The first sign of suffocation in dogs is extreme anxiety, gasping, or straining to breathe with an extended head and neck.
While most dogs remain conscious, small pups have a higher chance of fainting due to lack of oxygenation. If your dog keeps coughing, or seems like they’re having trouble breathing, check their throat for yourself. Dogs cough for many reasons, but it’s very common for them to have something stuck on their throats.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Choking?
Before running to the vet, if your dog has raw kernels stuck in his throat, you can try these tips:
- If your pet is a small dog, you can tilt its head down as you try to remove the object. For large dogs, raising the hind legs can help with the movement.
- Perform the Heimlich manoeuvre - this is a proven effective life-saving technique in the event of suffocation from choking. Keep in mind it can also be very dangerous, so it’s best to take a canine first aid class and practice beforehand. To perform the Heimlich manoeuvre, stand behind the dog, either standing or kneeling. Wrap your arms around them and support his legs with your own legs. From this position, apply pressure behind the ribs, inward and upward, to start coughing or vomiting. The more the dog salivates, the better it will be, as this will make it easier for the object to slide out.
- If your dog loses consciousness or cannot breathe, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
When you consider the potential health risks of popcorn, is it worth it to treat your dog? We’re not so sure about it. in general it’s best to stick to non-processed whole foods or a small piece of cooked chicken if you want to offer a treat.
But if you’re bent on giving popcorn to your dog, only give them fully popped kernels and never offer the full bowl.
Want to learn more about what types of food dogs can and can't eat? Check out our below guides:
Dogs, like humans, are biologically ‘programmed’ to prefer salty, buttery foods to ‘plain’ ones. It’s based on evolution, since in the wild our bodies would need the extra salt and fat to survive the weather. But considering those flavours can be dangerous to your dog’s health, stick to either natural, no-salt popcorn or no popcorn at all.
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