Update: Recent research has suggested that sweet potatoes, while not poisonous, may not be appropriate for a dog’s diet.
From the UC Davis School of Medicine: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued an alert about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. DCM is a disease of the heart muscle that leads to reduced heart pumping function and increased heart size. The alterations in heart function and structure can result in severe consequences such as congestive heart failure or sudden cardiac death. While the most common cause of DCM is genetic, on rare occasions other factors can also result in the condition, particularly in breeds that are not frequently affected.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that sweet potatoes are often found on lists of foods you should eat. They offer an abundance of health benefits, along with tasting delicious. But can dogs eat sweet potatoes? Yes, they can.
“The health benefits are the same for canines as they are for people,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, a licensed veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist at Animal Acupuncture in New York City.
Why Sweet Potatoes Are Good for Dogs
Sweet potatoes provide an excellent source of dietary fiber, which helps the digestive system function more effectively. Eating fiber on a regular basis lowers the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancers.
“Because sweet potatoes are a whole food, they are less likely to cause an immune response or damage to the digestive tract,” says Kathleen Standafer Lopez, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “This is why they are a popular source of carbohydrate in commercial dog foods.”
Sweet potatoes are also low in fat and rich in vitamins A, B6, C, calcium, potassium, and iron (each play a vital role in overall wellness). For example, vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy eyes, muscles, nerves, and skin. And vitamin C is critical for a properly functioning immune system. Studies have found that dogs, just like humans, show greater resistance to disease and have a better chance of recovery from injuries or illness when supplemented with vitamin C.
For dogs that are diabetic, overweight, or less active, owners should proceed carefully and only give their dog a minimal amount of sweet potatoes. “They should be incorporated with caution in the diets of diabetic dogs, due to a high glycemic index,” says Dr. Barrack.
How Should I Prepare Them for My Dog?
When feeding your dog a sweet potato, make sure it’s cooked and that the skin is removed; leaving the skin on makes it harder for your dog to digest. You should never feed your dog a raw sweet potato. Not only are they difficult to chew, but they can upset your dog’s stomach and potentially cause intestinal blockage. Some dogs are known to “inhale” their food, so making sure the potato is of a soft consistency lessons the risk of choking.
How Much Can a Dog Eat?
Like with any food, moderation is key. The amount given should be based on a variety of factors, such as your dog’s size, activity level, and overall health. “Too much of a good thing can cause bone and muscle weakness, due to excessive vitamin A,” Dr. Barrack stresses.
Carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, should not be a dog’s main source of nutrition; animal protein should be a daily part of their diet, as well. When introducing any new foods, first talk to your veterinarian. If she gives the go-ahead, start with a small amount to see how your dog reacts.
“As with human nutrition, canine nutrition should be individualized,” says Standafer Lopez. “Consult with your veterinarian before making any dietary changes.”