Can your dog eat sweet potatoes? The short answer to this question is YES! Outside of scenarios where your pup may have an allergic reaction, these tubers are fine for most dogs. Sweet potatoes are sort of a wonder-food. They manage to be sufficiently potato-ey enough that you can make chips, and yet they’re classed as one of your five-a-day. But if you’re sold on the idea of incorporating them into your dog’s diet, there’s some details to think through. Let’s take a closer look.
Sweet potato is an ingredient in many dog foods, dog chews and dog treats. It is often included for its high fibre content and number of vitamins it contains, as well as for the fact that it’s thought to rarely cause allergic reactions. Sweet potato is also regularly used in homemade dog food recipes and in homemade dog treats. Most dogs can safely enjoy sweet potatoes.
Will They Make My Dog Sick?
However, sweet potatoes aren’t fantastic for all dogs, and some dogs should only have very small amounts of sweet potato. For instance, diets containing high quantities of oxalic acid derivatives (spinach, wheat germ, sweet potatoes) can contribute to oxalate crystals in urine. These can cause uncomfortable urination and blood in the urine, as well as form bladder or urethral stones, which are painful and may require emergency surgery to remove.
These types of stones are most common in the Miniature Schnauzer, Bichon Frise, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso and Yorkshire Terriers. If your dog is one of these breeds, you should be careful about adding excess oxalic acid to their diet. A small amount of sweet potato now and then is unlikely to hurt, but regularly adding extra sweet potato to a diet already high in spinach may be too much for them to handle. If your dog has previously had bladder stones removed, you should be very careful about adjusting their diet and discuss any planned changes with your vet.
For those dogs that suffer with diabetes, you should already be aware that the diet should be extremely stable. Giving your dog sugary fruits or vegetable tidbits is likely to upset diabetes and cause it to become uncontrolled. This is especially true for sweet potatoes, which have lots of carbohydrates (there’s a reason they’re called ‘sweet!’) and a high glycemic index. Digesting these carbs would cause a huge spike in blood sugar, which for a diabetic dog can cause serious issues. As well as additional snacks of sweet potato, diets rich in sweet potato should also be avoided for dogs with diabetes.
In addition, every dog is different, and- although rare- you may find that your dog cannot tolerate sweet potato. For some, it will cause an upset stomach- vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain. For others, it may cause a skin reaction and increased itching, which can be treated with an anti-itch dog shampoo. It is always a good idea to give your dog a small amount of sweet potato and watch for 24-48 hours for any adverse reactions before you progress to giving it to them regularly.
Are They Good For Dogs?
According to the USDA, sweet potato contains (per 200g) 180 calories, 41.4 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of protein, and 0.3 grams of fat. It also contains 6.6 grams of fiber. Sweet potatoes are also really high in beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, manganese and potassium- all of which are important for normal body function, such as eyesight, hair and claw growth and neurological function.
Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants. One of the types of antioxidant in sweet potato is called anthocyanin. This has been shown to slow the growth of certain cancer cells, and mice fed sweet potato had lower rates of colon cancer. They also had less brain inflammation, better memory and increased ability to learn- cool huh? It’s not completely clear whether this effect would carry over to dogs, but there’s no doubt that sweet potatoes are a powerhouse of excellent nutrition regardless!
Sweet Potato in Dry Kibbles
Sweet potato is found in a huge range of dog diets, particularly in those that are marketed as limited ingredient diets for those with allergies or sensitivities. Although sweet potato is thought to be a safe ingredient for dogs, you should be cautious about opting for a ‘boutique’ or ‘exotic’ diet, as these have been linked with the fatal heart disease Dilated Cardiomyopathy (link). However, many reputable brands with good safety use sweet potato successfully.
Giving Your Dog Sweet Potatoes
If this is the first time your dog has eaten sweet potato, we recommend trying them with a small amount first, then waiting 24 hours to see whether they have any reactions before giving them any more. If all goes well, and they don’t develop an upset stomach, then you should be safe to continue.
It’s important to remember that treats and toppings- like sweet potato either with their food or as a snack- contain calories. Treats and toppings can make up to 10% of your dog’s daily dietary calories without unbalancing their main meal, but you need to account for the extra calories by removing some of their kibble at dinner time.
Over 50% of dogs are considered overweight or obese, and snacks like this can easily get forgotten when you’re trying to work out what your dog eats on a daily basis. Your local veterinary practice can do calorie calculations to tell you how many calories your dog should be eating so that you can be aware and keep their diet to the correct amount. Alternatively, you can get in touch with a nutritionist to help you to ensure your dog’s meals are balanced.
Raw vs. Cooked
Dogs can eat raw sweet potato in small amounts, and will likely enjoy it as a tasty chew. It’s good for your dog’s mental health to try new foods with different textures. Just like with any other foods, dogs should be given only a small amount, and you should be cautious that any chunks aren’t big enough to cause choking.
The best way to avoid this is to give long, thin, chip-like pieces that dogs can chew on but that can’t get wedged in the throat as easily as large cube-shaped pieces. If your dog is not the type to chew their food, you may need to avoid giving raw sweet potato as it can contribute to gut blockages if not chewed properly.
Can it Cure Diarrhea?
Well, that depends on the source of diarrhea and your individual dog. Sweet potato is very high in fiber, which leads to a more formed stool. This is the reason it’s included in many high fiber formula dog foods. However, diarrhea is rarely the result of a simple lack of fiber and is usually caused by something else- a toxin, a bacteria, a disease. Sweet potato isn’t going to cure diarrhea caused by those things, and if given to a dog that doesn’t usually eat sweet potato, it could make it worse by upsetting the stomach further.
However, for dogs with anal gland problems and chronic slightly-soft stools, the addition of some extra fiber can help. Raw carrot is often suggested, but raw sweet potato should work as well. Remember to adjust your dog’s diet accordingly: just 50g of raw sweet potato is 5% of a 15kg dog’s daily calorie allowance. Meaning if they were given 50g every day, without adjusting their daily allowance of kibble, they’d soon become overweight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can dogs eat sweet potato fries?
A: Yes, your dog can eat sweet potato fries. Because they are fried though, you’ll want to limit their intake to no more than a couple times per month.
Q: Can dogs eat sweet potatoes with cinnamon?
A: Unless your dog has a cinnamon allergy, cinnamon is generally non-toxic to dogs. In most cases, this should be fine, but you’ll want to immediately consult with your vet if your pup shows any signs of an allergic reaction.
Q: Can Dogs ingest sweet potato skins?
A: Yes, it’s safe for your dog to eat sweet potato skins in moderation. You’ll want to check the skins for mold though, as this can be toxic for dogs.
Q: Can dogs eat sweet potatoes every day?
A: We recommend feeding your pup any type of food in moderation. Moderate use of sweet potato should be just fine for dogs, even on a daily basis. You likely will not want to make it a primary meal, as too much may make it harder for your pup to pup go to the bathroom.
Q: Can my pup eat sweet potatoes with brown sugar?
A: Yes, brown sugar is fine for dogs in moderation. You’ll likely want to limit their brown sugar intake so that they don’t gain weight by ingesting too much brown sugar on a daily basis.
Q: Can my pup eat sweet potatoes with pecans?
A: Dogs should not eat pecans. Pecans have toxins in them that can make your dog extremely sick, so avoid pecans in your sweet potato adventures.
Q: Can my pup eat sweet potatoes with pumpkins?
A: Yes, your dog can eat sweet potatoes with pumpkins. We’d recommend that you stick to the canned variety, but fresh can be done as well. You want to limit your dog’s pumpkin intake depending on their size. Too much pumpkin can be toxic to dogs.
Q: Can dogs eat them if they are dehydrated or dried?
A: Yes, they can be eaten if they are dehydrated or dried. Both means are completely acceptable for dogs to consume, as long as no harmful chemicals are used in the dehydration process.
Q: Can my pup eat the leaf of a sweet potato?
A: No, your dog should not eat anything other than the actual potato. Do not feed your pup the vine or other parts of the plant, because excess could cause gastrointestinal problems.
Q: Can my dog eat sweet potato pie?
A: Depending on the ingredients used for sweet potato pie, it’s possible your dog can eat it. Marshmallows in excess are not good for your pup, so this should be eaten in moderation.
Q: Can sweet potatoes make my dog smell?
A: It’s unlikely that sweet potatoes would make your dog smell. They may make your dog slightly gassy due to the increase in fiber. There are dog foods that prevent gas which can help if it becomes a problem.
Now that you’ve learned all there is to know about dogs and eating sweet potatoes, the only thing left to do is actually start feeding them to your pup! If your dog doesn’t end up liking them, you can always look for a limited ingredient dog food that will include sweet potato as a primary ingredient, which may firm up your pup’s stools and keep them more regular on a daily basis.