Sweet potato is an acclaimed ingredient in all kinds of dog food—dry, wet, and homemade. This colorful and tasty root is often the plant matched up with a protein in prepackaged dog foods. The sweet potato also shows up in dog treats as an alternative to rawhide treats, which can pose a choking hazard.
But what about sweet potatoes or yams off the dining room table and in human food? Are sweet potatoes totally fine for dogs to eat? Can you feed your dog sweet potatoes every day? Here’s what you should know.
Sweet Potatoes Are Safe for Dogs
First, dogs can safely eat sweet potatoes or yams. If you see yams in the grocery store, these might not be "true" yams, but a soft variety of sweet potato that was conveniently called a yam to differentiate it from firm sweet potatoes. Either way, yams and sweet potatoes are nontoxic to dogs and cats, says Ahna Brutlag, DVM, with Pet Poison Helpline, an organization that answers potential poisoning questions for veterinarians and pet owners.
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals, and they show up on Pet Poison Helpline’s list of food that’s safe to feed pets. Some dog owners and cat owners even feed cooked or canned sweet potato or pumpkin for extra dietary fiber to constipated pets. Keep in mind, though, that extra fiber can sometimes cause diarrhea. Brutlag says that a pet-friendly dietary fiber supplement might be a more effective choice: “Your cat or dog would need to eat a lot of pumpkin or sweet potato [to manage the problem].”
When making changes to a dog’s diet, it’s always best to check with your veterinarian.
How to Serve Sweet Potatoes to Dogs
Steamed, boiled, or dehydrated, sweet potatoes can make a nice addition to a dog’s diet. Skin them first, as sweet potato skin can upset some dogs’ stomach. Because a raw sweet potato is big and hard, and some dogs have a tendency to wolf down their food, it’s recommended you always cook sweet potatoes and keep the pieces small.
Don’t feed too much of this tasty potato if your dog has diabetes or is overweight. Experts say sweet potatoes have a high glycemic index, causing blood sugar to rise quickly. If you add sweet potatoes to your dog’s menu as a treat, remember that additions like this should make up no more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet.
Can dogs eat sweet potato fries, sweet potato pie, and buttered sweet potatoes off the dinner table? Yes, but only in small amounts. The only issues with sweet potatoes, according to Brutlag, are too many calories and too much fat from tasty recipes with sweet potatoes.
”If an animal gets a large amount, say, from getting into the garbage and eating a whole lot, pancreatitis—caused by eating too much fat—would be something to watch out for,” Brutlag says.
One word of warning when it comes to potatoes and your dog’s diet: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported two years ago that some dogs diagnosed with the heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy (or DCM) ate commercially available diets that list legumes and potatoes (both white and sweet potatoes) as main ingredients. Check with your veterinarian before switching your dog to a new diet, especially if your hound was diagnosed with DCM.