Can dogs eat popcorn? Yes, but not always! - James Wellbeloved UK

Can dogs eat popcorn? Yes, but not always!

There’s nothing quite like snuggling up on the sofa for movie night with a bowl of popcorn on your lap and your pooch curled up next to you! But, as you tuck into your tasty snack, can your dog enjoy a bite too? The answer is both yes and no. Dogs can eat popcorn, but only if it’s unseasoned and in small amounts. Unfortunately, ingredients like butter, oil, salt and sugar (almost all the things we add to popcorn to make it tasty!) aren’t good for dogs and can even be toxic, so while hoovering up the odd dropped piece here and there isn’t going to hurt them, dogs can’t eat salted popcorn or sweet popcorn regularly. Read on to find out more about what types of popcorn dogs can eat (e.g. can dogs eat sweet popcorn or toffee popcorn?), how you can safely feed them popcorn (including serving suggestions you and your dog will love), and the hazards to watch out for if your dog does eat popcorn.

Can dogs eat popcorn?

Yes, dogs can eat popcorn in small amounts, as long as you’ve air-popped it without any toppings or seasonings that could be bad for them. It’s important that you only let them have it as an occasional treat though, making sure it only accounts for 10% or less of their daily calorie intake. So probably just a small handful at most for a large dog and a few pieces for a smaller dog. If you like to eat your popcorn smothered in butter, salt, oil or sugar (because let’s face it, it’s delicious that way), it’s best not to share it with your pooch. So if you’re wondering if your dogs can eat salted popcorn with you, unfortunately, the answer is no. Just like when dogs can eat bread, it’s the toppings that we humans like to add to it that can make it unhealthy. A good idea is to air-pop the corn plain and add your choice of toppings after you’ve let your dog have some. If they get their paws on the odd piece of salty or sweet popcorn on the floor, it’s unlikely to cause any trouble, just try to keep it to a minimum.

Is popcorn safe for dogs? And types to avoid

Yes, dogs can eat popcorn safely in some circumstances. As mentioned above, the safest type of popcorn dogs can eat is plain, air-popped. But even with this, you have to be careful of unpopped kernels (and partially popped kernels), as they can get stuck in your dog’s teeth or cause them to choke. So, if you do feed your dog popcorn, make sure you only give them pieces that have fully popped, and in small amounts. On the other hand, if you’re wondering if dogs can eat sweet popcorn, or perhaps even if dogs can eat toffee popcorn, it’s best to avoid these. The odd piece probably won’t cause harm, but toppings such as toffee and sugar, as well as oil, salt and butter, aren’t healthy choices for dogs and can cause weight gain, dehydration and stomach upset when they have too much. Another important thing to be aware of, is that some dogs have an allergy to corn. If you know your dog has a sensitivity, never give them any type of popcorn, as it could result in reactions such as stomach upset, gas and diarrhoea.

Can popcorn upset a dog's stomach?

Yes, popcorn can upset a dog’s stomach in some cases. Examples include if your dog has a sensitivity to corn, if they eat too much popcorn in one go, or if they eat popcorn seasoned with unhealthy additives like salt, sugar, oil or butter. If they have some, make sure it’s only an occasional treat and it’s not topped with anything unhealthy - or toxic, like garlic.

What happens if my dog accidentally eats popcorn?

If your dog accidentally eats some popcorn, it’s unlikely to be a cause for concern unless they have eaten a large amount of flavoured popcorn in one go or they have a sensitivity to corn. If either of these is the case, they could experience symptoms including stomach upset and diarrhoea that can last a few days. If they manage to eat some unpopped kernels, make sure they have swallowed them without getting them lodged in their teeth or throat, as the kernels can cause irritation if left wedged in a tooth and leave your dog at risk of choking if swallowed whole.

Is popcorn good for dogs?

While plain popcorn isn’t necessarily bad for dogs, it isn’t all that good for them either. Corn kernels do contain minerals including magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and fibre, but the amount of these minerals found in the recommended portion a dog can safely eat will be very small. Dogs can eat sweetcorn and popcorn as occasional treats, but they should not form a significant portion of their diets or replace their nutritionally balanced meals.

How to feed your dog popcorn safely

If you want to treat your pooch to the occasional popcorn treat, air popping is the healthiest way to cook it. Plus, it’s really easy. Just pop some plain corn kernels into a popcorn machine, in the microwave or in a saucepan on your hob and wait for them to pop. Then allow it to cool and remove any that haven’t popped or have only partially popped, before giving your dog their share. If you’re after a more exciting popcorn recipe that can be enjoyed by you and your dog, here are a couple of options below. Just remember to only give them a little bit!

Cheesy bacon popcorn

Spread your plain, air-popped popcorn on a lined baking tray and lightly cover with grated cheddar (low fat is a good choice for reducing calories) and bacon bits. Cook at 180°C until the cheese melts, then let it cool.

Peanut butter poppers

Air-pop some popcorn and then mix half a cup of it with 1 cup of peanut butter (make sure it doesn’t contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol), as well as a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Form small balls and place them on baking paper and leave them to set. You can learn more about when it’s safe for your dog to eat peanut butter in our article about whether dogs can eat peanuts.

How much popcorn can I give my dog?

You should only allow your dog to eat popcorn as an occasional treat. A guide to go by is to make sure it accounts for 10% or less of their daily calorie intake, which is around a small handful for a larger dog and just a few pieces for a smaller dog. Too much popcorn can cause weight gain or upset their stomach. So what’s the verdict, can dogs eat salted popcorn, sweet popcorn or even toffee popcorn? In short, dogs can eat popcorn in moderation, but only if it isn’t topped with unhealthy additives that can be bad for them. This means dogs can’t eat toffee popcorn and other tasty - yet unhealthy - variations. It’s best for them to eat it plain, or with a small amount of cheese, bacon, peanut butter or other dog-friendly ingredients. This said, although popcorn is safe for dogs to eat as an occasional treat, it may not be the healthiest option for your dog.

Discover the other human foods and natural alternatives that make healthy dog treats in our article on the topic. We also have lots of useful information around other types of foods your dogs may or may not be able to eat: