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Spanish water dog eating popcorn

The essentials

  • Unseasoned, air-popped popcorn is relatively safe for dogs — In small quantities, plain, air-popped kernels are OK for your pup.
  • Avoid popcorn with any seasonings, including salt — Movie theater popcorn commonly found in supermarkets often contains butter, high salt content, and ingredients toxic to dogs, such as garlic or xylitol.
  • Look out for gastrointestinal issues — Dogs with sensitive stomachs may experience diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and other GI issues after consuming popcorn.

Movie nights and Netflix marathons can feel incomplete without a big bowl of popcorn, but is it really a good idea to share your crunchy snack with Fido?

According to experts, the short answer is plain, unseasoned, air-popped popcorn can be safe for dogs when given in small amounts.  But popular movie theater popcorn commonly found in grocery stores often has butter, salt, and other seasonings that may be dangerous to dogs.

Nutritional components of popcorn

The good: dietary fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins

When given in small quantities, plain popcorn is low in fat and sugar, and actually includes several minerals considered beneficial for your dog’s health, such as magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese. The low-calorie snack is also high in fiber and contains several vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin B6, thiamin, and vitamin E, all of which are essential to canine health.   Remember, the benefits of popcorn for dogs are only relevant when it comes to plain, unseasoned, air-popped popcorn.

The bad: salt, butter, and other flavorings

Premade popcorn often contains high levels of salt, butter, and other seasonings that are harmful to your pup’s health. Here are some of the popcorn additives that might pose a risk to your dog:

  • Xylitol. Often used as an alternative sweetener in kettle corn or caramel popcorn, xylitol is deadly to dogs. Even a small amount of xylitol can lead to poisoning in as little as 10 minutes.
  • Garlic. Humans might love the taste of garlic in their popcorn, but it is extremely toxic to dogs in any form — powder, cloves, sauces, butter, flavorings, and more.
  • Salt. Too much salt (or sodium) can harm your pup’s health and lead to sodium ion poisoning. Keep your salty popcorn far from reach.
  • Butter. Dogs may be able to tolerate small amounts of butter but too much of it, salted or not, can cause digestive issues and lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Butter, like oil and salt, also contributes to pet obesity and obesity-related health issues.

🚨 If you suspect your dog has ingested seasoned popcorn or is displaying signs of irritation after consuming even plain popcorn, contact your vet immediately.

Potential health risks of popcorn for dogs

Plain air-popped popcorn can be safe for dogs in small amounts, but the crunchy snack may still pose some health risks even when consumed without flavorings.

  • Choking hazards. Look out for partially popped or whole, unpopped popcorn kernels when feeding your pup a popcorn snack as these can become a choking hazard or get lodged in your dog’s teeth. If your pet allows you to safely open their mouth to remove a stuck kernel, do so with caution, or take your pet to a nearby veterinarian immediately.
  • Digestive issues. Even plain, air-popped popcorn can cause tummy issues when consumed in large amounts. Common symptoms of gastroenteritis include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and reduced appetite.
  • Allergies. Corn is a known allergen for some dogs. Look out for symptoms of a corn allergy or intolerance, such as vomiting, diarrhea, gas, obsessive licking around the paws, skin rash, or an upset stomach.
  • Obesity. Popcorn, especially when any oil and butter is included, can contribute to weight gain, obesity and obesity-related health problems in dogs and humans alike. Obese pets are at a higher risk for diabetes, arthritis, and shorter life spans.

Plain popcorn can cause minimal problems, if any, when dry and well-popped, and given as small amounts of treats. Dogs love their popcorn!

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

Safe and moderate portions

When giving your pup a taste of plain, air-popped popcorn, think of it as a treat. Stick to no more than a handful of pieces of popcorn for a medium-to-large-sized dog per day — and even less for smaller dogs. Healthy feeding guidelines suggest treats make up 10% or less of a dog’s daily calorie content. Avoid giving any popcorn to dogs with corn allergies.

Alternatives to popcorn for dogs

There are hundreds of healthy dog treats and snack ideas out there that would make a great alternative to popcorn. Below are some popular healthy snacks similar to the texture of popcorn we highly recommend rewarding Fido with for good behavior — or just ‘cause!

Store-bought dog-friendly treats with a little crunch

These crunchy, dog-friendly alternatives to popcorn are available online or in stores.

  • Riley’s Organic Pumpkin Dog Treats. These 7-calorie treats are shaped like bones and pack a mean pumpkin-y scent and crunch.
  • PupCorn Plus Dog Treats: Available in chicken & cheddar cheese or salmon & sweet potato, these crunchy “dog popcorn” treats seem to be a hit among reviewers.
  • BIXBI Liberty Ruff Puffs: These 4-ingredient treats come in three different flavors: rotisserie chicken, sweet potato & apple and white cheddar.

Homemade treat alternatives to popcorn

Using fresh foods for dog treats is often healthier than a store-bought treat because you get to choose your ingredients. Look to your fridge or pantry for these homemade, dog-friendly treat alternatives to popcorn.

  • Celery. Lots of vegetables are dog-safe, but if you’re looking for an alternative with some crunch, chop up some celery or cucumber. Raw celery can even help calm dogs with anxiety.
  • Apples. Apples, in particular, are high in fiber and have that special crunch factor Fido probably loves about popcorn.
  • Coconut pumpkin frozen dog treats. You’ll need two cups of coconut water, one peeled orange, and ⅓ cup of Native Pet’s Organic Pumpkin Powder to fill a mold of 18 shapes. Like popcorn, pumpkin is high in fiber and can actually help your dog’s digestive issues.

The bottom line is that when consumed in moderation, plain air-popped popcorn is safe for dogs. And even if your dog garbles up a few fallen pieces of your movie theater snack, you probably don’t need to worry about serious health issues. But keep the buttery, seasoned goodness far from Fido whenever possible.

Frequently asked questions

What happens if my dog ate my popcorn?

If your popcorn contains butter, salt, or other toppings and flavorings, be on the lookout for signs of an upset stomach, allergic reaction or corn kernels stuck in your dog’s teeth. A few dropped kernels likely won’t do major damage, but you should consult your vet to be safe.

How much popcorn can I give my dog?

A small handful of plain, unseasoned, air-popped popcorn is safe for a medium-large-sized dog. Note that healthy feeding guidelines suggest treats make up 10% or less of a dog’s daily calorie content.

Can dogs eat microwave popcorn?

No, dogs cannot eat microwave popcorn or any popcorn that has butter, salt, or seasonings.

Can dogs eat popcorn in moderation?

Dogs can eat plain, air-popped popcorn in moderation.

Why do dogs like popcorn?

Dogs love the satisfying crunchiness of popcorn — just like humans do.