Can I Give My Dog Potatoes?
In a world that is not shy about its love of carbohydrates, potatoes have always had a firm place in our hearts, our souls, and our stomachs. Today, we love to eat potatoes in all of their forms—baked and stuffed with beans, grains, and other goodies, baked and mashed, sliced and pan-fried, and even dipped in oil and deep fried. Potatoes are cheap, healthy, high-energy foods that have made their way into many of our pantries as the perfect staple food. Though your dinner guests may be picky about pasta or bread, it’s hard to find anyone who will reject a potato as a side dish or a main course. They are universally loved, unthreatening, and fairly easy on the stomach.
Since they are one of the best-loved bland whole foods we eat on a regular basis, they are often one of the first ones we think of when we look for healthy ways to add variety to our dog’s diets. Most pet owners realize that heavily processed people foods are not great for our pets, so we turn to our favorite whole comfort food alternatives. So, can dogs have potatoes?
The answer is yes, but only cooked, and in moderation. Thoroughly cooked potatoes are perfectly safe for your dog, raw potatoes can cause a whole host of problems. The best way to feed this food to your dog is washed, peeled, and boiled or baked until very soft. This will eliminate the risk of poisoning and minimize the chances of causing digestive problems.
Are there any good things about feeding your dog potatoes? If you are referring to white potatoes, the answer is: not really. Dogs are omnivores, so they can tolerate starchy carbohydrates far better than our cats, but they do not NEED them the way that we do. White potatoes do contain some nutrition, but their vitamin and mineral content is pretty low when compared to other plant foods, so they may as well be considered empty calories.
There are two potential benefits to feeding your dog white potatoes: for fiber and for weight gain. White potatoes are starchy and contain a small amount of fiber that can help treat diarrhea, but they are not recommended for the treatment of constipation. The high starch, high carbohydrate content also makes them an excellent, safe weight gain food—if your pooch needs to pack on a few pounds, you may want to supplement their diet with small amounts of baked or boiled potato. This will increase their calorie intake without the adverse effects of other high-energy foods, which often contain large amounts of fat (think peanut butter). Potatoes are low in fat, so they are less likely to result in pancreatitis.
If you go for sweet potatoes, however, your dog may receive a whole host of health benefits. Sweet potatoes are lower in calories, higher in fiber, and far higher in vitamins and minerals than their white counterparts. They are packed full of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, iron, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.
Sweet potatoes are powerful cancer-fighting, disease-busting foods thanks to their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. The antioxidants destroy the free radicals responsible for cancer-causing cell damage, and the anti-inflammatory compounds fight chronic inflammation, which can reduce muscle aches, encourage healing, and even ease the symptoms of arthritis—including soothing joint pain and improving joint mobility. Baked or boiled sweet potatoes are one of the best high-carbohydrate foods you can incorporate into your dog’s diet, which is why many higher-quality dog food brands include it as an ingredient.
Things to keep in Mind
While it is safe to feed your dog thoroughly cooked potatoes on occasion (especially sweet potatoes!), you should not make a habit of it. Dogs did not evolve to eat a lot of carbohydrates, so if they are not especially active, you may notice that the weight starts to creep on as they gobble up potatoes. Overweight or obese dogs are far more likely to develop illnesses like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, so it’s important not to let your pooch get too pudgy.
Important: never feed your dog raw potatoes. In addition to seriously upsetting their digestive system, they may be at risk of poisoning. This is because potatoes, which are nightshade vegetables, contain the toxic chemical solanine, which can damage the nervous system. This sort of poisoning is rather rare, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
In sum, it is safe to feed your dog cooked potatoes as long as you do not make a habit of it. Potatoes are a tasty, dog-friendly carbohydrate option that can be helpful if your dog is very active or needs to gain weight. Just remember to feed your dog boiled or baked potatoes without any toppings—your dog does not need any sour cream, butter, cheese, or French fries!