Updated - Nov 10th, 2021
The holidays are fast approaching, and as we prepare our menus, we might be considering what our dogs can share with us! Especially as many of us just can’t resist when our trusty canines give us the puppy-eyes as we feast on our holiday bounties.
Dogs do just fine on balanced dog food and need nothing more, but it’s still tempting to give them a little bit of your meal. When your dog plants themselves in the kitchen to catch a bite, it’s important to know how human food will affect their digestive system, as this is vital to their continued health.
Most holiday feast menus will contain mashed potatoes, so you may be wondering, are they safe for your pup? The simple answer is yes, mashed potatoes are okay for most dogs, but the secret to their safety is how you prepare the dish. Before you share a pup-sized dish of mashed potatoes with your tail-wagger, check out our article Can Dogs Eat Potatoes, and read to learn about adding potatoes to your dog’s diet.
Nutritional benefits of potatoes
Potatoes are packed with nutrients that improve your dog’s health. They provide a healthy dose of vitamin B6, vitamin A, and vitamin C. They also contain antioxidants that can fight cell oxidation, boost your dog’s immune system and nervous system, and fight against the effects of cognitive aging.
Potatoes are also full of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium, all protecting heart health, bone growth, cell growth, kidney function, and metabolism.
Fiber is another health benefit from potatoes. Foods high in fiber can help keep the digestive tract moving smoothly.
Even though there are many benefits, there are also some drawbacks when offering potatoes to your canine companion.
The downside of potatoes
One big drawback of potatoes is the carbohydrates they contain. Listed high on the glycemic index, potatoes can cause blood sugar spikes, which can be deadly for dogs with diabetes. Carbohydrates turn to sugar in the digestive system to provide energy. However, dogs with diabetes can’t process large amounts of carbs or sugar in their diets, making potatoes risky for them to eat.
Potatoes are part of the Nightshade plant family, as are peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. They are toxic to humans and animals because of the solanine they contain in the roots, potato skin, stems, and leaves. The cooking process reduces the solanine in potatoes, making it safer for you and your dog. Raw potatoes have high amounts of solanine, so you shouldn’t eat them nor feed them to your dog.
The skin color of the potato can show higher levels of solanine. When potatoes absorb sunlight, the light activates chlorophyll, turning the skins green. Peeling and cooking potatoes with green skin doesn’t reduce the amount of solanine. It’s best to avoid eating potatoes with green skin.
Signs of solanine toxicity are:
- Gastrointestinal upset – severe vomiting and diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
If you notice these symptoms in your dog after potato ingestion, call or visit your vet right away.
Many dog foods list white potato or sweet potato as the carbohydrate. This is a good option for dogs that have food sensitivities and/or allergies that require a limited ingredient diet. In a balanced diet, dog food contains the higher amount of animal proteins that your dog needs, with a lower carbohydrate content.
If you’re considering giving mashed potatoes to your dog in addition to their balanced diet, would this be safe?
Can you give your dog mashed potatoes?
Mashed potatoes are a healthy snack for your dog if they are prepared correctly. Roasted potatoes, boiled potatoes, or steamed potatoes that don’t include butter, gravy, fats, salts, or seasonings are the right way to offer them to your dog.
If garlic or onions/chives are added into the mash, these additives are very toxic to dogs, causing red blood cell damage that leads to severe anemia. Garlic and onion powder are even more toxic because the toxins are more concentrated. Read more about giving dogs onions and garlic in our previous articles.
Frozen, dehydrated, or instant mashed potatoes are fine to offer to your dog in small amounts. Most consist of just potato, with milk, salt, butter, or water added later during the cooking process. Since dogs don’t like spices, offering plain, unseasoned potatoes is a great treat that they’ll welcome.
Keep in mind that some dogs are lactose intolerant and can develop tummy trouble or diarrhea if you add in dairy products like milk or sour cream. Having said this, a small dollop of mashed potatoes with dairy will not hurt them as long as it doesn’t contain onion or garlic seasoning. Very small amounts of salt, pepper, or butter will not harm your dog, but it pays to be cautious.
Which dogs should not eat mashed potatoes?
Carbohydrates can cause serious problems when a dog suffers from diabetes, cancer, or obesity. Since carbs turn to sugar, dogs with these health issues should not have potatoes in any form.
Is there a link between eating potatoes and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?
You may have heard of DCM in dogs being linked to eating potatoes. Veterinary scientists have conducted many studies that attributed DCM to dogs eating legumes, not potatoes. For a more in-depth look at that information, read our full article Can Dogs Eat Potatoes. But here’s the short version.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the enlargement of the heart, which limits its ability to pump blood efficiently throughout a dog’s body. This can lead to severe congestive heart failure and sudden heart attack.
Many studies have determined that in cases of dogs diagnosed with DCM, 93% of them were eating foods that contained peas or lentils (legumes) as a primary ingredient. Far fewer dogs diagnosed with DCM were eating foods containing potatoes or sweet potatoes.
The last word on mashed potatoes for dogs
When you look down at your dog pleading for a nibble of your food, remember the rule of daily dietary caloric intake to keep them healthy and avoid obesity. The primary source of calories per day (90%) should come from your dog’s regular dog food diet. The remaining 10% can be from treats. This includes vegetables, commercial treats, and morsels of your food. Any amount of treats over 10% of your dog’s daily calories can lead to weight gain.
When your family’s mashed potato recipe is the dish in question, prepare your dog’s potato portion completely plain. Your dog can lap up a small amount of this yummy goodness and will be just as happy without all the extra ingredients, additives, and fats that humans love to add in.
When your fur kid is hovering nearby waiting for a morsel of goodness, you can safely offer them plain unseasoned veggies and meat morsels. This will ensure that your dog enjoys the holidays as much as you do!