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Can dogs eat sweet potatoes?

Whole and slices sweet potatoes

Dogs can be just as much work as people when it comes to feeding them the right foods! 

Knowing what your dog can and can’t eat is one of the most important things about being a dog owner. Although you can’t watch what your dog eats all the time, you’re the one in charge of his meals and snacks. Even the most careful dog owner can unknowingly feed their precious companion a particular food that they think is okay, but turns out to be a big mistake.

There are, however, lots of whole foods out there that are just as good for dogs as they are for people. And using them to introduce more variety into your dog's diet is a great idea. The trick is to know what’s good and what isn’t. 

Sweet potatoes are a sweet, starchy, tuberous root vegetable (but not botanically related to the common potato!). They come in a variety of shapes and colors, including yellow, orange, red, brown, purple, and beige, and we humans love them roasted. But can dogs eat sweet potatoes?

Are sweet potatoes good for dogs to eat?

This is a tricky one. In general, sweet potatoes are safe for dogs to eat and many sources recommend them as a good source of energy and nutrients. In fact, sweet potatoes pose similar health benefits for dogs as they do for people.

As a whole food, sweet potatoes are less likely to cause an immune response or damage to the digestive tract. This is why they’re often used as a source of carbohydrate in commercial dog foods.

The benefits of giving your dog sweet potatoes

Research suggests that sweet potatoes harbor anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anticancer properties. 

  • Sweet potatoes contain anti-inflammatory properties. The rich composition of vitamins in sweet potatoes also harbor powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The purple sweet potato in particular has been shown to contain anthocyanins that can inhibit the production of active inflammatory components in the body. Sweet potatoes also contain a high level of choline, a nutrient that helps to reduce inflammatory responses.
  • Sweet potatoes are antimicrobial. While studies on the antimicrobial properties of sweet potatoes are limited, some reports have concluded that the sweet potato does contain some level of antimicrobial activity. The fiber in sweet potatoes has been documented to inhibit the growth of foodborne bacteria. This can help in the prevention and treatment of a variety of bacterial pathogens and infections.
  • Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins. Although sweet, these little tubers are low in fat and rich in vitamins A, B6, C. Vitamin A is particularly valuable for its role in supporting your dog’s eye health, muscles, nerves, and skin. Vitamin C is also crucial for the proper function of his immune system, and supporting the collagen required or healthy joints. Dogs tend to have a better resistance to disease and recover faster from injuries or illness when supplemented with vitamin C.
  • Sweet potatoes can help improve a dog’s coat. As well as vitamin A and C, sweet potatoes contain good amounts of Vitamin E. Studies have shown that Vitamin E supports hair growth while also warding off oxidative stress, which can slow hair growth. Vitamin C is also effective at neutralizing the oxidative stress caused by exposure to UV light. In addition, sweet potatoes contain plenty of essential minerals such as calcium, potassium, and iron, which also support the health of a doggo’s fur.
  • Sweet potatoes are great for digestion. The rich fiber content of sweet potatoes makes them highly beneficial for improving the health of your dog’s digestive system. Insoluble fiber is necessary for helping move waste through the intestines, which helps to prevent constipation, while soluble fiber helps to support the health of your dog’s ‘friendly’ gut bacteria. 

Can sweet potatoes be bad for dogs?

As with any food, moderation is key. The amount of sweet potatoes that are suitable for your dog should come down to his size, activity level, and overall health. Sweet potatoes are very high in carbohydrates, so feeding him too much can quickly lead to weight gain if he isn’t very active. 

However, if your dog is highly active and eating a species-appropriate diet (that is, not a kibble diet based on carbohydrates), adding a bit of sweet potato to his meal each day could be just right for helping him maintain a healthy weight. The only other thing to remember is that the high concentration of vitamin A in sweet potatoes may also do more harm than good, so small amounts are still best. 

How to prepare sweet potatoes for dogs

Before starting your dog on sweet potatoes, talk to your veterinarian first to gauge the appropriate amount for your particular dog. In most cases, you’ll be advised to start with a small amount to see how your dog reacts. 

The best way to serve your dog sweet potatoes is cooked. Never give him raw sweet potatoes! 

Simply steam or boil, then mash up as you would for yourself. In fact, steaming or boiling helps to retain more of the nutrients than roasting or baking. You can then add a little to your dog’s standard meal. 

You can even make special dehydrated chews out of sweet potatoes! These make an excellent alternative to rawhide chews and are less likely to cause the digestive blockages or choking that rawhides are associated with.

The article was written by Katie Stone on December 15, 2020.

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