Q.My dog, a 25-pound mixed breed, happens to love popcorn. Is there any reason I shouldn’t give it to her as a treat?
Dear Mr. Zenke,
A. Popcorn happens to be a terrific, safe, low-calorie treat for dogs — as long as it is air popped and contains no salt or butter (or other fat). Popping it yourself in a pan of oil or butter is going to add a lot of calories — too many. And microwave popcorn usually has a lot of salt and virtually always has fat and calories.
But air-popped popcorn is such an innocuous food — even for most dogs who have various diseases that limit what they are allowed to eat without worsening their condition. Thus, we think buying an air popper and getting your pet used to popcorn that comes from it is a great way to acclimate him to healthful treats. It’s true that popcorn made that way doesn’t have a lot of flavor. But so much of giving dogs treats is about cementing our bond with them. They just like the interaction, the gesture that you care. That’s often more important to them than the delectability of the food.