Caring for your dog is by no means a walk in the park! Knowing which foods your dog can and can’t eat is one of the most important things about being a dog owner.
Dogs are naturally curious about different foods, so it’s not uncommon for them to chow down on just about everything they come across. And sometimes it’s the dog owner that feeds their precious companion a particular food that they think is fine but turns out to be a no-no.
You may be surprised at how many foods harbor nutritional benefits for both humans and dogs. And adding in some of those ‘human’ foods that dogs can eat makes for a varied diet—and a very happy canine. The trick is to know what’s good and what isn’t.
One food that might cause some confusion is mashed potatoes. They're are a very popular side dish in many cultures, especially Western. They’re usually served alongside meat or vegetables and make for a warming, satisfying meal. But can dogs eat mashed potatoes?
Are mashed potatoes good for dogs?
This is a tricky one! Mashed potatoes are technically just fine for dogs, and may even harbor some health benefits. But it all comes down to the way in which they are made and the extra ingredients they contain.
Mashed potatoes are usually made by boiling potatoes and then mashing them with, well, a potato masher. Homemade versions of mashed potato will often include milk, butter, salt, and pepper.
‘Smashed’ potatoes are what you get when the potatoes are only roughly mashed.
Commercial versions of the dish can be quite different from homemade. Instant mashed potatoes, for example, are potatoes that have been cooked, dehydrated, and powdered. This means they can be reconstituted by adding hot water or milk. But these contain a huge range of added ingredients! Some of these include corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, sodium, and artificial flavors and colorings.
Nutritional benefits and risks of feeding your dog mashed potatoes
Potatoes on their own are just fine for a dog in small quantities. Potatoes are rich in vitamins and B6, along with the minerals iron and magnesium. These nutrients are highly beneficial to the proper functioning of your dog’s immune system, nervous system, nutrient absorption, and energy production.
Potatoes are also a great source of fiber, which is important for your dog’s digestive health. Soluble fiber helps to support the natural probiotic bacteria in his gut, which play a major role in his immune defenses. Fiber also helps to keep his bowels moving regularly!
Of course, like any food, too much of a good thing can be bad for your dog. A diet high in potatoes can lead to unnecessary weight gain.
Instant mashed potatoes are nowhere near as nutritious as real potatoes. They contain significantly more sodium than fresh potatoes and much less dietary fiber. They also have much less vitamin C. This means there are very few useful nutrients in the instant version.
The artificial ingredients in instant mashed potatoes can also be harmful to your dog’s digestion. Dried onion and dried garlic are both toxic to dogs and can cause serious health issues such as anemia. Too much sodium in your dog’s diet can also lead to dehydration and kidney problems.
Guidelines for feeding mashed potatoes safely
The great thing about mashed potatoes is that they are easy for dogs to eat, especially older dogs who might have trouble chewing.
You can safely give your dog mashed potatoes that contain no added flavorings or seasonings. It’s also best to avoid cow’s milk and butter, as these can be difficult for dogs to digest.
Serve a small helping of mashed potatoes alongside a healthy source of protein, like beef liver. You can also make the potatoes a yummy topping on their main meal.
Be sure to cook the potatoes thoroughly, as raw potatoes contain a toxin that can cause gastrointestinal distress. Peeling the potatoes before mashing them is also important. A little potato skin is ok, but they are high in oxalates, which can lead to kidney problems.