Movie Night Munchies:
Is Popcorn Safe for Dogs?
Be cautious when sharing popcorn with your dog on movie night. A few plain, popped kernels are ok for most healthy dogs, but avoid salt, butter, xylitol, flavorings and GMO corn. Never give popcorn to dogs with grain sensitivities or chronic illness. Choose alternatives like puffed rice or homemade treats.
Are you planning to chill on the couch and watch a movie with your favorite fur baby? If your dog is staring at your bowl of popcorn, you’re probably wondering if it’s safe to toss a few kernels over to her!
A few plain popcorn kernels are generally safe for most healthy dogs, but beware of added toppings, risks for choking and the longer term health concerns from food sensitivities and genetically modified grain crops, like corn.
Don’t worry though, we have lots of alternative healthy snack suggestions for your Fur Soul! Enjoy movie night knowing that you’re doing the best for your dog pal.
What’s In Popcorn?
Popcorn is simply corn kernels heated with air or oil until they explode or ‘pop’ into fluffy morsels. Some people enjoy plain old popped corn, but many add butter, oil, salt and spices to this homemade treat.
If you prefer your popcorn ready-made off the shelf, be aware that manufacturers commonly include vegetable oils, processed sugar substitutes and sweeteners, salt, spices, artificial dyes, and dairy byproducts like whey protein. Some even add cookies, chocolate, nuts, chilli powder, artificial icing and caramel.
You can see how quickly popcorn can become an unnatural, unhealthy snack food for you and your dog.
Is Popcorn Good for Dogs?
Dogs are not designed to thrive on corn and other carbohydrate grains. So the short answer here is no, popcorn is not good for dogs. Will it harm dogs? That’s a different question. Most healthy dogs can tolerate a small amount, but don’t think you’re doing her a favor by giving her popcorn.
Is Popcorn Bad for Dogs?
Unlike potentially toxic foods like chocolate or xylitol, plain popcorn in itself is not usually fatal to dogs unless they have a severe allergy to corn or added toppings.
Popcorn can still create some potentially serious problems though, that can injure your dog or contribute to long term health conditions.
Don’t let your dog eat hard or un-popped kernels. Hard kernels can crack teeth, irritate gums, and cause excessive coughing or choking. Never give un-popped kernels to puppies, which can damage baby teeth and gums. Whole, un-popped kernels can collect in small sections of the bowel and lead to a blockage that may require medications or surgery.
Don’t give your dog popcorn with added toppings. Butter, margarine, oil, salt, cheese, caramel, chocolate and seasonings are some of the toppings that can cause immediate or longer term reactions and add to current health problems.
- Dairy products (butter, cheese) can cause stomach upset in dogs with lactose intolerance
- Salt can cause dehydration and increase blood pressure and stress on kidneys
- Sugary toppings can raise blood sugar and destabilize dogs with diabetes
- Chocolate is toxic
- Artificial sweeteners like xylitol are toxic
- High fat toppings (like margarine and unhealthy oils) stress the pancreas and other digestive organs
- Carbohydrates and sugars contribute to obesity and tooth decay
- Artificial ingredients add to your dog’s toxic load and make her liver work harder
- Grains like corn can irritate your dog’s intestines, leading to food sensitivities and long term illnesses.
Despite common belief, corn is considered a grain – not a vegetable. Dogs thrive on meat, vegetables and healthy oils and are not designed to eat grains like corn, wheat or soy.
Dogs aren’t designed to eat grains or carbohydrates or grains.
Exposure to corn, soy, wheat and other grains can lead your dog to develop a grain sensitivity.
It’s important to know that food sensitivities are different from allergies:
- Allergies cause the rapid onset of potentially life-threatening symptoms like difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, mouth or tongue, cough, hives, panting, obsessive licking or scratching or rapid heart rate.
- Food sensitivities develop over time and can lead to digestive upset, frequent ear infections, itching (hot spots) and chronic diseases.
How Does a Grain Sensitivity Happen?
Remember that dogs aren’t designed to eat grains. Their canine ancestors would have been exposed to small amounts of partially digested grains in the stomachs of prey, but dogs have always thrived on animal protein, vegetables and healthy oils.
Dogs that are fed processed kibble are exposed to grains frequently used as bulk and cheap fillers. Over time, grains can cause microscopic irritation in your dog’s gut. Like tiny barbed wires, these lesions eventually damage a dog’s protective intestinal mucous lining, leading to a leaky gut. A leaky gut allows grain proteins to ‘leak’ from the damaged gut into a dog’s bloodstream, which alerts the immune system of an invader. The immune system fights the grain proteins with inflammation. When inflammation becomes widespread and chronic from long term exposure to grains, it can lead to a cascade of autoimmune and other chronic illnesses.
Many vets and canine health practitioners only suspect a grain sensitivity if a dog has severe gastrointestinal symptoms. However, grain sensitivities can be subtle and start early.
Signs of a possible grain sensitivity may include:
- head shaking
- chronic ear infections
- red, itchy skin and hot spots
- licking paws
- irritated anal glands
- vomiting or diarrhea, poor appetite for kibble
If you suspect your dog may have a grain sensitivity, consult a Holistic Vet or Holistic Canine Nutritionist. Avoid grains like corn and do your research around manufactured dog food marketed as grain-free.
Is Popcorn Safe for Dogs on a Grain-Free Diet?
Do not feed popcorn to dogs that are on a grain-free diet. If your dog has developed a grain allergy or sensitivity:
- Avoid popcorn and all products made with corn
- Avoid all grains
- Avoid products marketed as “grain-free”, which can lead to further food sensitivities and even heart problems like dilated cardiomyopathy
- Be wary of insect-based food products that are marketed toward dogs with food allergies and sensitivities
- Contact a Holistic Vet or Holistic Canine Nutritionist for nutritional guidance
Grain-free dog products can contain plant proteins like peas, potatoes and lentils which are associated with heart disease (dilated cardiomyopathy) in dogs.
Genetically Modified (GM) Corn and Pesticides
Once a safe staple for humans and dogs, corn has become one of the most genetically modified, pesticide-laden grain crops in the world.
More than 88% of corn crops are now artificially altered to change their characteristics and enable them to withstand higher levels of pesticides.
Why is Genetically Modified Corn Unsafe for Dogs?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are manufactured for a variety of reasons, including making the altered ‘food’ more appealing to the public, easier to grow and resistant to higher and higher levels of deadly pesticides.
Cows fed genetically modified grains produce milk that is lower in nutrients and higher in inflammatory substances.
Evidence is building regarding the health risks of GMOs. Animal and human studies suggest GMOs can damage kidneys, intestines and liver and can lead to skin problems, hormone imbalances, food allergies and even cancer. The use of deadly pesticides adds even more fuel to the GMO fire. Why?
GMO crops are altered to be able to withstand enormous levels of chemical pesticides like glyphosate. Glyphosate is known to disrupt the healthy bacteria balance (microbiome) of the intestines and is linked to inflammation, cell damage, poor nutrient absorption, weakened immunity and lowered ability to excrete toxins.
Canine health practitioners are seeing an explosion of pesticide- and GMO-related health problems in dogs such as leaky gut, allergies, irritable bowel, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and chronic skin and ear issues like hot spots. Progressive veterinarians and holistic canine experts recognize the root causes and are advocate for real, natural food for all dogs – without pesticides and altered genes.
We know you want to do the best for your dog, so please avoid genetically modified corn at all costs.
Tips for Making Popcorn Safer for Dogs
We don’t recommend feeding popcorn to your dog. But, if you do choose to share a little with her on movie night, here’s how to make popcorn safer:
- Choose organic, non-GMO corn
- Use an air-popper or microwave plain popcorn without oil or butter
- Don’t add salt, processed cheese, chocolate, sweeteners or other seasonings
- Remove un-popped kernels before giving them to your dog
- Give popcorn only as an occasional treat
- Keep treats to approximately 10% or less of your dog’s daily caloric intake
- Monitor your dog for any signs of allergic reaction, choking, or digestive upset after eating popcorn
- Keep your dog’s dish filled with fresh, filtered water
- Choose a healthier alternative (like one of the treats below)
- Never give a dog popcorn if they have a grain sensitivity
- Never give a dog popcorn if they have an inflammatory condition like arthritis, autoimmune illness or cancer
- Never give a dog popcorn if they have frequent ear infections or hot spots or are prone to choking
Alternatives to Popcorn for Dogs
If you want to share movie night with your pup, choose one of these healthy alternatives in small amounts:
- Plain organic, puffed rice cakes
- Roll a tablespoon of puffed rice in a teaspoon of unsweetened peanut butter. Adjust size to your dog’s needs
- Baby carrots
- Frozen broccoli (seriously, our dog dances for broccoli!)
- Apple or pear (no seeds)
- Cooked or raw chicken, beef, lamb, cut into small pieces
- Cheese (white cheddar, mozzarella, goat or sheep cheese)
Visit HealingFurSouls.com for lots of grain-free healthy recipes for your beloved dog! Some of our favorites include:
- Grain-Free Grinch Bits (Doughnut Holes)
- La-La-Lavender Biscuits (for anxious dogs)
- CBD Dog Treats
- Pumpkin Spice Cookies
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- Coconut Sweet Potato Treats
- Arthritis-soothing salmon, bone broth and Mac N’Cheese recipes.
How much popcorn can dogs eat?
Although popcorn is not recommended due to its choking risk and potential grain-related health issues, most healthy dogs can eat a small amount of plain popcorn without toppings. Organic, non-genetically modified popcorn is best and should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric value. Never give popcorn to dogs with grain sensitivities or allergies.
Can dogs have flavored popcorn?
Do not feed flavored popcorn to dogs. Salt, cheese, caramel, margarine, chocolate and artificial sweeteners like xylitol can be harmful to dogs. They may cause or worsen stomach upset, obesity, diabetes, allergies or food sensitivities. If you choose to give your dog popcorn, stick to non-GMO, plain, air-popped corn without any toppings.
Can dogs be allergic to popcorn?
Although it’s rare, some dogs might be allergic to corn or other ingredients in popcorn. Allergic reactions have a rapid onset and can be severe. If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, such as itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Food sensitivities are more common in dogs than allergies. Sensitivities occur with long term exposure to grains like corn, and can contribute to chronic health conditions like itching, hot spots, ear infections, digestion problems, joint pain, autoimmunity and even cancer.
Is popcorn safe for puppies?
Avoid giving popcorn to puppies. Puppies can choke or break their teeth on un-popped kernels, or swallow amounts that can lead to an intestinal blockage. Puppies do not require carbohydrates or grains from popcorn, and toppings like salt, chocolate, cheese powder or oils can cause upset stomach, dehydration or more dangerous digestive problems.
Can popcorn be used as a training treat?
Popcorn is not the best choice for training purposes. Small, low-calorie, and nutritious dog treats specifically designed for training are typically more effective. Small amounts of certain cheeses can be highly effective and healthy for most dogs.
Be kind to all living beings. Respect the earth we share.
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