See if your canine companion will appreciate the light, puffy treats by the handful as much as you do.

By Chad Taylor
February 19, 2021
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Whether you're at the movies or just home on the couch, who doesn't love curling up with a bowl of freshly popped popcorn? As any pet owner who has done just that knows, our dogs are more than happy to camp out nearby, keeping a keen eye out for kernels that inevitably get dropped on the floor.

In and of itself this is a perfectly safe situation. No matter how your popcorn is prepared, there's nothing in a kernel or two that's going to cause them any serious issues. But what about as a regular treat? We asked a veterinarian for some insights.

Can Dogs Eat Popcorn Safely?

Broadly speaking, yes, popcorn is a human food you can safely share with your dog. If it is air popped and unbuttered, there's no reason why your dog can't eat a little bit as a treat (with supervision). In fact, since popcorn kernels come from a type of corn which contains minerals like magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc, there's actually some nutritional benefit to slipping your pup a little popcorn snack now and then. The issue, however, is that few people make popcorn specifically with their dogs (or cats) in mind.

Fluffy cockapoo in front of illustrated popcorn background
Credit: Connie Smothers

So When Is Popcorn Unsafe?

Your pet sucking up a dropped kernel or two of buttered, salted popcorn isn't going to be any cause for alarm, but giving them buttered or salted popcorn as a regular treat can potentially lead to obesity, heart issues, and digestion problems.

"Butter has so much fat in it, that's another thing that you can see diarrhea and vomiting from," says Kaci Angelone, DVM, MS. "If you're going to offer your dog popcorn, give them a couple of pieces before you add the good stuff, and always do so in small quantities."

So if you're going to toss some popcorn into your dog's mouth as a fun treat for them, just make sure it's as plain as possible. This is going to preclude giving them a handful of anything that comes pre-packaged with dehydrated or artificial butter flavoring added, as well as products that come packaged with tons of extra salt, spices, or flavorings. Keeping an eye out for all of those will go a long way to keeping your dog from getting an upset stomach or packing on pounds in the long term. Also, if you're popping popcorn at home, make sure that you're filtering out any unpopped or partially popped kernels, as the tough, unpopped husks can get caught in teeth or even be a choking hazard for smaller dogs.