It’s movie night, and you’re enjoying the latest hit while snacking on popcorn. You are so into the movie you did not even notice your dog picking up the few that accidentally fell on the floor.
Help! My dog ate popcorn – now what? Well, it depends on the popcorn type. Eating a few plain and air-popped popcorns now and then will not hurt your dog. However, eating heavily salted, high-fat popcorn is a dangerous idea. In addition to causing long-term issues, popcorn can injure the dog’s sensitive gums and pose a choking hazard. Therefore, even the safe popcorn types must be offered with caution.
In this article, we will explain why popcorn is not a fit snack choice for dogs. We will go through the possible scenarios after your dog eats popcorn and review the different popcorn types – their safety and feeding guidelines.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY DOG ATE POPCORN?
There are various ways in which a dog can get its teeth on popcorn:
- Purposeful feeding (if the owner was not aware of the potential dangers)
- Finding few popcorns on the floor
- Stealing popcorn from the bowl.
Regardless of how the dog ended up snacking on popcorns, the consequences vary based on several factors, including your dog’s size, the amount of popcorn eaten, and the popcorn type.
In the best-case scenario, your dog will eat only a small amount of popcorn and be perfectly fine. The list of bad scenarios is quite long and involves various options.
Popcorn and digestive upset
It is no secret that dogs have sensitive tummies, and basically, any new food can wreak havoc on the digestive system. Dogs used to a particular food type can develop gastrointestinal upset even after eating a few popcorns.
Digestive upsets in dogs usually manifest with vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, abdominal pain, dehydration, and lethargy. More often than not, the symptoms are transient and self-limiting. However, if they persist for more than a day, it is advisable to seek veterinary help.
Popcorn and salt toxicity
Most store-bought and microwave popcorn options are heavily salted. Although vital in tiny amounts, if consumed excessively, salt causes intoxication. Salt intoxication in dogs triggers a clinical manifestation that involves vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, incoordination, tremors, and seizures. Salt intoxication is a life-threatening emergency.
Popcorn and pancreatitis
Because of their high-fat content, certain types of popcorn can cause an acute pancreatitis episode. Pancreatitis is an excruciating and severe inflammation of the pancreas that manifests with diarrhea, vomiting, lack of food and water appetite, hunched position (because of the pain), and overall weakness. If left untreated, pancreatitis can be fatal.
Popcorn, obesity, and diabetes
Some popcorn options contain too many sugars. Frequent consummation of significant sugar amounts can lead to unnecessary weight gain and obesity. Obesity is a risk factor that increases diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.
Popcorn and oral injuries
The popcorn edges or unpopped kernels are sharp and can easily damage the dog’s sensitive gums. Although these injuries are rarely deep, gums are prone to heavy bleeding, and the presence of blood is an objective reason for panicking in most dog parents. Plus, a kernel may get stuck between the teeth and cause discomfort or, in the long run, if left unremoved – infection.
Popcorn as a choking hazard
Dogs are voracious eaters and cannot take it slow – when offered something they like, they will gulp down without even trying to chew. It is easy for the popcorn to end up in the throat and trigger choking in such cases.
CAN POPCORN KILL YOUR DOG?
As unbelievably as it may sound, the answer is yes – popcorn can kill your dog. Fatal outcomes are possible if your dog consumes considerable amounts of heavily salted popcorns and develops salt intoxication.
Acute pancreatitis can also have lethal consequences, especially if the episode is severe and left untreated or if the treatment is initiated too late.
Finally, popcorn can kill your dog if your dog starts choking on it. Choking is a life-threatening situation. If your dog is choking, you need to provide first aid and then once your dog is stable, make an urgent trip to the vet’s office.
CAN POPCORN MAKE MY DOG SICK?
Yes, all non-dog-friendly popcorn options can make your dog sick. Sometimes, your dog’s sickness will be minor and self-limiting, like, for example, in the case of gastrointestinal upset.
However, other times it will require urgent veterinary attention and hospitalization, for example, in the case of acute pancreatitis episode.
Some popcorn-related accidents like having a kernel stuck between teeth or pierced into the gum may require sedation and minimally invasive surgical procedure for removing the troublesome kernel chunk.
DOGS AND THE DIFFERENT POPCORN TYPES
There are dozens of different popcorns available on the market. However, not every option is safe for dogs. Some popcorn varieties are safe, while others are best avoided.
Can dogs have cheddar popcorn?
Dogs can have homemade cheddar popcorns. If planning to share the popcorns with your dog, it is advisable to use low-fat cheddar. On the other hand, microwave popcorn with cheddar is a no-go for dogs. Regardless of the added taste, all microwave popcorn options are high in salt and fat.
Can dogs eat caramel popcorn?
Caramel popcorn is delicious, but sadly, dogs cannot enjoy the taste. Both homemade and store-bought caramel popcorn options are not dog-friendly because the caramel topping is basically melted sugar. Overeating sugar can cause obesity and diabetes in your dog.
Can dogs have buttered popcorn?
No, dogs cannot have buttered popcorn. Although healthy in smaller amounts, butter is not a dog-friendly ingredient. Butter contains lots of fats and is very likely to cause gastrointestinal upset, followed by severe vomiting, diarrhea, or an acute pancreatitis episode.
Can dogs have chocolate popcorn?
Dogs must never eat chocolate popcorn. This is because chocolate is a highly toxic food for dogs. The methylxanthines found in chocolate affect the dog negatively, leading to a state of agitation and hypersensitivity. Generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic for dogs.
DOG-FRIENDLY POPCORN RECIPES
Just because your dog cannot eat any popcorn type, it does not mean it should not enjoy some dog-friendly popcorn now and then. As mentioned, air-popped and plain popcorns are safe for dogs.
To pop the kernels, you will need a popcorn machine. You can also use a microwave or regular pan and stove, but using the special popcorn machine is the most straightforward alternative. Air popping the popcorns is easy and not very time-consuming. To ensure the popcorn you serve your dog is safe, removing the un-popped and half-popped kernels is vital.
However, if you want to add taste and diversity to your dog’s snack menu, you can roll up your sleeves, put the cooking apron on and prepare some popcorn toppings for your dog. Here are some popular and dog-friendly topping recipes.
Cheesy bacon popcorn
Spread the popcorn on a pan lined with a baking sheet and then sprinkle some grated cheese (a low-fat option) mixed with tiny bacon chunks. Put the pan in the oven and bake for a few minutes – until the cheese melts.
Once you get the delicacy out of the oven, let it cool (room temperature), and as soon as it is cooled, both you and your dog can start snacking.
Peanut butter poppers
To prepare peanut butter popcorn, start by mixing half popcorn cup with one peanut butter cup and a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Ideally, the peanut butter should be homemade using only dog-friendly ingredients.
If using a store-bought option, make sure the peanut butter you choose does not contain xylitol – a common artificial sweetener that is highly toxic to dogs. Use the mixture to make small balls, and then put the balls in the refrigerator to ensure they stay in shape.
Popcorn is not something you want to feed your dog. However, the good news is that eating few popcorns (even if salted and oily) accidentally will not harm your dog – just try not making a habit out of this.
If you want to share snacks with your dog while watching movies, you can make dog-friendly popcorn or, ideally, choose another more dog-friendly treat for your furry baby. With so many different dog snack choices on the market, you will easily find one that fits your dog’s taste.
Is microwave popcorn okay for dogs?
Generally speaking, microwave popcorn is high in salt and oil and should not be offered to dogs. If your dog catches fallen popcorns or steals a few pieces, it will be alright, but eating more microwave popcorns can trigger gastrointestinal upset.
Is popcorn toxic to dogs?
Popcorn is not toxic to dogs on its own. However, heavily salted popcorn options can be – sodium is toxic to dogs. If a dog eats significant amounts of heavily salted popcorns, it might become intoxicated, thus requiring immediate veterinary attention.
Is popcorn a low-calorie treat for dogs?
Plain, air-popped popcorn is considered a low-calorie treat. However, popcorn has no nutritional value for dogs and should not be used as a substitute for regular dog treats despite its low-caloric content.