My Dog Ate Popcorn Kernels [Should I Be Concerned?]

dog on couch eating popcorn

If your dog ate popcorn kernels, you likely have nothing to worry about. Although kernels can be difficult to digest, they shouldn’t cause any significant health complications other than an upset stomach. If your dog is allergic to corn, it may experience digestive issues for a few days.

Some dogs are picky about their treats, and some will gobble up anything you put in front of them.

If you own a dog, there’s a good chance they’re going to eat something that they shouldn’t at some point. If your dog ever eats popcorn kernels, you don’t need to panic, but you should keep a close eye on them the next few days.

Although popcorn is typically fine for dogs, popcorn kernels do have a slightly higher risk. Below, we will go over the differences between popcorn and the kernels.

The Nutritional Value of Popcorn

Is popcorn healthy? Yes, but not the kind that you’ll find at your local movie theater or concession stand. 

The nutritional value of plain popcorn is relatively high, containing a decent amount of fiber and small amounts of protein, iron, and essential minerals. 

These are all things that are good for your dog, as long as they’re getting the right amount. They should get all of their essential  nutrients from their food, so there is really no reason to supplement their diet with popcorn. Still, an occasional treat is okay in moderation. 

However, refrain from giving your dog any of the “good” popcorn—you know, the kind that is slathered in salt and butter and other flavorings. 

Though it might taste delicious, these additions make popcorn an unsuitable treat for your pup. 

Too much oil and butter can give your dog an upset stomach, and they might even suffer from vomiting or diarrhea if they ingest too much. 

An excess of salt might induce a case of sodium ion poisoning in your dog, which could be life-threatening. 

Obese dogs whose caloric intake is increased by popcorn will become more susceptible to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, so proceed with caution. 

Overall, popcorn is not a necessary treat for your dog, but if you decide to give them some, make sure it’s plain.  

Additionally, corn is a very common allergy in dogs. If your dog suffers from a corn allergy, allowing them to eat popcorn could cause inflammation, diarrhea, or chronic gas. That’s not a fun time for you or your pet.

But What About Popcorn Kernels?

Are popcorn kernels safe to ingest? It depends. Even if your dog does not have a corn allergy, the kernels still might not sit right with them. 

Kernels are much more difficult to digest, and depending on how many kernels they consume, your dog might experience varying levels of discomfort. 

One or two kernels might not be an issue, but if your dog swallows a bunch of them, be on the lookout for negative side effects. 

Kernels also pose a choking hazard, so be sure your dog doesn’t have any lodged in their throat. 

Another thing to watch out for is kernels getting stuck in your dog’s teeth. We’ve all had it happen to us, and we know how infuriating it can feel to dig a piece of a kernel out of our teeth. 

Kernels getting stuck in your dog’s mouth can cause irritation or even pain, depending on how sharp the piece is and how sensitive the area it was stuck in is. 

If it remains stuck in your dog’s gums for an extended period, they will be more susceptible to tooth decay or gum disease. 

Why Did Your Dog Eat Popcorn Kernels?

Most dog owners don’t feed their dog popcorn kernels, which means the dog managed to eat the kernels through inappropriate behavior. Here are the top “bad behaviors” that could have caused your dog to eat kernels. 

Once you identify what you believe the behavior was, keep reading to learn how to prevent it. 

Counter-Surfing

It sounds fun, doesn’t it? But it’s a behavior that should not be encouraged in any dog. 

Dogs love food. The kitchen counter is the place where most food is prepared and sometimes left behind.It’s no wonder that dogs are drawn to that specific area of the house—it’s a goldmine. 

Whenever I’m preparing anything in the kitchen, I refer to my pup as “Mr. Underfoot” because he is quite literally always underneath my feet. If anything drops, he’s on it. 

Thankfully, he knows his limits and never tries to jump up and snag anything off the kitchen counters (that I’ve seen), but other dogs still have a problem with this behavior. 

Digging Through the Trash

Dogs are natural opportunists. It’s in their nature to scavenge and hunt for food. If the garbage smells particularly delicious, there is no reason they wouldn’t want to get in there for a taste of some forbidden treat. 

The garbage is even worse than the counter for your dog to get into because your trash is home to all sorts of bacteria and potentially harmful chemicals. 

Dogs rarely ever counter-surf or garbage-hunt directly in front of their owners. You usually have to catch them in the act or piece together the clues after certain foods go missing. 

If you find out that your dog is counter-surfing or scavenging through the trash, it poses a problem for their safety. If they get into something bad, and you don’t know about it, it can have disastrous side effects. 

Stopping Improper Behavior

Prevention

The best way to stop something from happening is proper preventative methods. To prevent your dog from counter-surfing, you must make the counter inaccessible. 

While cooking, you might have to keep your dog in their crate or in another room. If your dog tries to snag stuff off the counter outside of mealtimes, perhaps they need to be barred access to the kitchen altogether. 

Try investing in a baby gate to block them from entering the space. You might also benefit from keeping your countertops clean and free of anything that could be of interest to your pup. 

If they start scavenging and coming up empty, eventually, they will stop trying altogether. 

It is also wise to make sure that your trash can is properly secure. Like keeping your counters clean, your trash should not be in an accessible place for your dog. 

Make sure it is covered with a lid or, even better, stored somewhere under your sink that your dog can’t get into. 

We all know some dogs can get into anything, and those dogs may require an extra bit of dog-proofing around the house. 

Proper Nutrition

Make sure your dog is properly fed. In both counter-surfing and garbage-hunting scenarios, your dog might be doing so simply because they aren’t eating enough. 

Granted, some breeds seem to be hungry all the time (I’m looking at you, Labradors!), but there still might be a legitimate reason that your dog is seeking a food source outside of their bowl. 

Your Dog Might Be Bored

Make sure your dog is properly entertained. Dogs that require a lot of engagement need to have frequent activity sources, or else they will get bored. 

Bored dogs get into more mischief simply because they are looking for something to do and want your attention. Offer your dog another outlet—whether it be playtime or some more walks—so they are less likely to seek trouble at home. 

Training and Rewards

Dogs learn from rewards, not punishments. Now, this is not to say that you cannot set boundaries. If you see your dog counter-surfing or digging through the garbage, you need to address the situation firmly. 

Shooing them away from the area with a stern “No!” or “Off!” should immediately let them know that what they’re doing is wrong. 

This should be the extent of your “tough guy” behavior. Any sort of punishment will only make your dog scared and upset. 

Never try to scold your dog for something they have done after the fact. If you come home to a chewed-up pair of sneakers, yelling at your dog serves no purpose. 

If you want to show your dog that they did something wrong, you need to identify it while it’s already occurring. Yelling at them after the fact leaves them with nothing to associate the yelling with.

Redirect Their Behavior 

Once you have stopped their behavior in the act, you need to instruct them to do something else and then reward them for compliance. 

For example, show them to a designated spot in the kitchen and have them stay until you have finished cooking. 

Give them plenty of rewards and praise when they listen to you. This will ensure that they learn this is the proper behavior and are more likely to repeat it. It will take time and consistent effort, but it’s worth it to ensure that your pup is well-behaved and out of harm’s way. 

Recommended For You