Potatoes come in many shapes and sizes. A standard spud can be turned into mashed potatoes, tater tots, hash browns, french fries, roasted potatoes, potato chips, and more. But can dogs have potatoes?
The answer depends on a few factors like the kind of potato (for example, sweet potato versus white potato), how it’s cooked, and what color the skin is. When it comes to human foods like potatoes, it’s imperative to know what’s safe to include in your dog’s diet from time to time. This guide offers everything you need to know about potatoes in your dog’s diet, and the potential dangers this root vegetable might present to Fido’s health.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Potatoes?
Pet owners should never let their dogs eat raw potatoes as these tubers can be highly toxic. In raw form, potatoes are high in solanine. This chemical is poisonous to dogs as it irritates their intestinal tracts.
Fruits and vegetables that belong to the nightshade family — including potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes — are high in solanine. This compound is mainly present in potato skins, so be sure to peel potatoes before cooking if you’re going to share them with your dog.
Solanine can cause severe problems for your dog’s digestive system. Some signs of solanine toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, and confusion.
If you feed your dog white potatoes, they must be cooked thoroughly as the process significantly reduces solanine levels, thereby canceling out the toxicity. However, If you suspect your pooch may have ingested raw potatoes, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661.
Cooked Potatoes for Dogs
Potatoes are great sources of vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B6, among other nutrients. However, if they’re not prepared properly, feeding your dog potatoes can lead to adverse health effects. This is where cooking methods come in.
While cooked potatoes are safer for dogs in moderation, how they are cooked plays an important role as well. Potatoes for dogs should be baked or boiled with nothing extra added to them. This means no salt, no butter, no sauce, or any other condiments or seasonings.
Avoid giving your dog potatoes that are fried in oil, such as french fries or chips. Sharing one fry here and there won’t do much harm, but it’s best to keep dogs away from fried foods as they have no real nutritional value. (Plus, they’re high in fat.) Like humans, dogs who eat a lot of food that is high in fat will put them at risk for unnecessary weight gain and diabetes.
Spuds With Green Potato Skin
Whether or not it’s cooked, never give a dog any potato that has green potato skin. A potato with greenish skin means its solanine levels are very high.
Unlike white potatoes, cooking a green potato will not lower its solanine levels. As such, eating potatoes with green skin is still very dangerous to both you and your dog’s health. Research has found that humans and dogs alike should stay away from green-skinned potatoes. Some people who have eaten the green tuber experience symptoms ranging from vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches to paralysis of the central nervous system.
So, how do you prevent potato skins from turning green? They must be stored properly. Potatoes should be kept in the dark because potato peels that have been exposed to too much light will turn green, thereby increasing solanine levels.
Just remember that when it comes to potatoes, green does not mean go.
Sweet Potatoes for Dogs
Sweet potatoes are healthier than white potatoes because they have higher nutrient levels. Sweet potatoes are low in fat and high in dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. Vitamin A promotes healthy skin, coat, vision, nervous system, and muscles in dogs.
In fact, sweet potatoes are often used as an ingredient in pet health supplements for their antioxidant properties that support immune system health.
Dehydrated sweet potato dog treats are sold in many pet stores. Like white potatoes, sweet potatoes should be cooked thoroughly through steaming or boiling. They should also have no added seasonings, oils, or butters.
Are Potatoes Bad for Dogs? The FDA’s Stance on Potatoes in Grain-Free Dog Food
There are a lot of unknowns regarding the link between potatoes as a main ingredient in dog food and canine heart disease.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has an ongoing investigation into the link between grain-free dog foods and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a type of heart disease that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood and results in an enlarged heart. The FDA is taking a particularly close look at grain-free pet foods that contain a high concentration of legumes like peas and lentils (as well as potatoes) as main ingredients.
According to veterinarians at Upstate Veterinary Specialties, signs and symptoms of DCM include exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, decreased energy, fainting spells, and coughing.
The FDA states that though high levels of legumes and potatoes in grain-free dog foods appear to be the common denominator, they do not yet know how those ingredients are linked to cases of DCM. Because there’s no conclusive evidence thus far, the FDA has not asked any brands to issue recalls on grain-free foods.
You can keep an eye on the FDA’s website dedicated to updates on the investigation for further information on potatoes in grain-free food and their potential link to DCM. Pet parents are encouraged to report cases of DCM in dogs if they believe it’s related to their diet. You can use the online Safety Reporting Portal or call your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.
Worried About DCM? Treat Your Dog to Potato Alternatives
Maintaining a healthy heart and body weight is essential for your dog’s overall health. If you’re concerned about giving your dog too many potatoes and carbs, there are other ways for your dog to get a good dose of vitamin A and fiber as a part of a balanced diet.
Consider other veggies that are safe for dogs to eat, including carrots, green beans, and spinach. Carrots are particularly high in vitamin A, fiber, and potassium. Plus, they’re great for teething puppies to chew on.
Green beans are another healthy addition to your dog’s diet because they are low in calories and packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium, vitamins, and protein. Be sure to cut green beans into small enough pieces to avoid a choking hazard.
Of course, always consult your vet before changing up your dog’s diet, especially if they have a sensitive stomach or other health concern.
Can Dogs Have Potatoes? The Final Word
While cooked potatoes are OK for dogs in small amounts, it should be low on your list of food treats for your dog. Due to the high solanine levels in potatoes as well as the unknown link to potatoes and canine dilated cardiomyopathy, it may not be worth the risk.
If you’re still not sure about feeding your dog potatoes or sweet potatoes, talk to your vet or veterinary nutritionist for their professional take on these root vegetables.
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