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Can Dogs Eat Sweet Potatoes? Yes, but ration the amount.

Writer, Mom of a Fab Fur Fam of Five | + posts

Lynn is a writer and long-time Learning & Development Manager at a large PNW retailer. She's also mom to 3 dogs & 2 cats!

Thinking about sweet potatoes conjures up thoughts of holiday dinner side-dishes smothered with toasted marshmallows and brown sugar. Most people don’t consider them as anything but the sweet, sticky addition to a holiday meal. However, for us, and for our dogs, they offer many health benefits.

Nutritionists consider sweet potatoes a whole superfood. These orange-colored ground tubers, or root vegetables, are nutrient dense. They’re packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber—a nutritional punch few tubers can match. They’re also low in calories and fat. Ultimately, sweet potatoes add tasty and nutritional value to your dog’s diet.

Many dog food and dog treat manufacturers include sweet potatoes in their products. They’re found in some limited ingredient or grain-free kibble formulas for dogs with allergies, too. There are some concerns with this, and we’ll look at those concerns later in this article. 

For now, let’s look closer at the sweet potato to see why they can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet.

The humble sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are a starchy root vegetable that is grown worldwide. Often confused with yams, most American grocery stores carry sweet potatoes with only specialty stores carrying the true Yam.

What’s the difference between Sweet Potatoes and Yams?

Sweet potatoes are sweeter and carry more nutrients than Yams. You would think these two veggies were related, but they aren’t. 

Sweet potatoes are in the Morning Glory family. Yams are from the Lily family. Both are ground tubers, with Yams being much larger than sweet potatoes with a bark-like flesh and drier, starchier meat. Sweet potatoes have smoother, thinner skins with less starch but more nutrients. 

White potatoes are also not related to the sweet potato. White potatoes are from the nightshade family, making them toxic if ingested raw. Sweet potatoes aren’t toxic, but can cause a tummy ache if your pooch eats them uncooked.

Nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes

Considered a whole superfood, sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and minerals considered essential for both the health of dogs and dog owners.

Here are some benefits sweet potatoes provide:

  • Dietary Fiber: Sweet potatoes are one of the highest sources of fiber in vegetables, and most dogs love them. Fiber is essential for keeping the digestive system functioning smoothly. If your dog has diarrhea or constipation, the fiber in sweet potatoes will help correct these problems.

Dogs with obesity can benefit from a higher fiber diet. Fiber lengthens that feeling of fullness after a meal, helping your dog lose weight.

Studies have proven that a diet rich in fiber may lower heart disease and can prevent certain types of cancer in dogs.

  • Antioxidants: Sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge for the free-radicals that cause cell damage from things like stress, illness, or damage from the environment. The purple sweet potato (Stokes Sweet Potato) has higher antioxidants (anthocyanins), and the orange sweet potato contains more beta-carotene. 

Vitamins:

  • Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant, this vitamin helps your dog’s immune system. It finds and destroys free-radicals that can damage cells due to stress, illness, and environmental toxins. It’s also reported as reducing cognitive aging problems in senior dogs. 
  • Vitamin A: Besides supporting cell function, reproduction, and the immune system, Vitamin A is what beta-carotene becomes once inside a body. Beta-carotene is responsible for the orange color in sweet potatoes and carrots and promotes healthy vision.
  • Vitamin B6: Supports healthy red blood cell function, the immune system, and provides support for glucose generation. This is an essential vitamin for dogs, especially those with diabetes needing consistent blood sugar levels.

Minerals:

  • Calcium: An essential mineral necessary for supporting strong bone growth, healthy teeth, a strong heart, muscle growth and function, and a healthy nervous system. 
  • Potassium: This important mineral keeps your dog’s kidneys functioning well. It also supports efficient heart function, muscle function, and a healthy digestive system.
  • Iron: Iron supports red blood cell and hemoglobin formation. Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout the body and produces energy. Iron is an essential nutrient for dogs.

What about raw sweet potatoes?

White potatoes are from the nightshade family, making them toxic if fed to dogs raw. However, sweet potatoes, since they aren’t related to white potatoes, are not toxic. 

Cooked sweet potatoes are great for your pooch, but raw sweet potatoes may cause a belly ache or intestinal upset. For that reason, it’s best to only serve them in their cooked form.

Can my dog eat sweet potato skins?

The skin of a sweet potato is not toxic to your dog, but if eaten in large hunks, could cause a choking hazard. This is especially true for small breed dogs.

Also, the skin is hard for them to digest. Peeling the veggies prior to feeding is a good idea, but if you leave the skins on the sweet potato, cut or slice it into small, thin pieces for easier eating and digestion.

Can my dog eat canned sweet potatoes?

Most canned sweet potatoes have added sweeteners and artificial ingredients, making them a potential hazard for your pooch. 

Organic, unsweetened canned sweet potatoes with only water as the added ingredient are okay for your dog.

It should be noted that some nutrients are lost in the canning process.

Can dogs be allergic to sweet potatoes?

Yes, and no. Sweet potatoes are considered a whole food, meaning your dog is less likely to have an immune response or sensitivity to them. However, whenever you offer your pooch a new food, watch for any itchiness, breathing difficulties, or rashes.

Because sweet potatoes are a starchy carbohydrate, dogs with yeast or candida issues (ear infections or excessive itchiness) should be monitored for symptom flares. Carbohydrates turn to sugar in a body, and sugar feeds yeast or candida.

Best ways to feed your dog sweet potatoes

Dogs usually love sweet potatoes. I know mine do! 

They are best if boiled or baked, then mashed, sliced, or cubed. These root vegetables make good training treats because they are low in fat and calories. You can also occasionally add them into your dog’s regular meal, like a kibble or wet food for a tasty, nutritious addition. 

Sweet potato fries and chips made for humans can have salts, sugars, or artificial additions to their content. These aren’t safe for your dog and can cause stomach or tummy upsets. If you want to share your sweet potato fries or chips with your pooch, try making them from a fresh sweet potato rather than processed or frozen products.

My dogs love dehydrated sweet potatoes as a healthy alternative to rawhide chews. They come out of the oven or dehydrator stiff, with a slight chewiness that satisfies their chewing needs. There are many resources on the internet for making quick and easy sweet potato chews for those who prefer to DIY.  This option is especially good for senior dogs or puppies.

Mixing sweet potatoes with other fruits and veggies is a great way to add a nutritional boost to your dog’s diet. Mix them with strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, bananas, add them to plain yogurt smoothies, or freeze them for a quick summer treat.

Can my diabetic dog eat sweet potatoes?

Sweet potatoes are high in starch and considered a medium glycemic load vegetable. That means that it quickly changes to sugar and can increase the blood sugar to high levels. It also can cause blood sugar to crash or drop quickly.

For this reason, dogs with diabetes should be given sweet potatoes as an occasional treat. If your dog has diabetes, consult with your veterinarian about giving sweet potatoes to your dog.

Sweet potatoes and Dilated Cardiomyopathy in dogs 

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 attacks.

In recent years, there has been some concern, and many studies, around the role of grain-free or limited ingredient diets in dogs diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. The studies were initiated because of concerns of dogs being diagnosed with DCM in breeds not known to have a genetic predisposition to this disease. In many of the cases, the dogs were eating a limited ingredient diet.

The studies have not determined the cause of the increase in cases of DCM, but, they have determined that in the cases of dogs diagnosed with DCM, 93% of them were eating foods that contained peas or lentils as a primary ingredient. Far fewer dogs diagnosed with DCM were eating foods containing potatoes or sweet potatoes. 

This means that sweet potatoes, as a treat, will not harm your dog or cause DCM. There are still more studies surrounding this issue, but for now, sweet potatoes are not seen as playing a role in the rise of DCM in dogs not predisposed to this disease.

Are sweet potatoes safe for my dog?

As with many other fruits or vegetables, sweet potatoes should be fed to your dog in moderation and as occasional treats, NOT as a regular diet. Too much of a good thing, even if it’s nutritious, should be offered in small amounts first to avoid any allergic response or intolerance. A healthy dog diet includes a scientifically formulated kibble or wet food, with treats and any meal supplements like sweet potatoes added in moderation to their regular diet.

If you’re offering sweet potatoes in this way, you have no fear of dilated cardiomyopathy. But we always recommend checking with your veterinarian first before you add a new food or treat to the menu for your dog.

If your dog has kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, is overweight, or has a chronic ear or skin infection, it’s best to check with your vet prior to offering sweet potatoes.

Ruh-rohs and meow-ches happen!

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