Can Dogs Eat Cracker Jacks?

Photo by Mike Mozart on Flickr

Cracker Jacks are a mix of popcorn, nuts and caramel. They usually come in a cardboard box and contain a prize at the bottom.

They have been around since 1893, although they weren’t called Cracker Jacks until 1897.

Are there other brands of caramel popcorn? 

Oh, yes. There are at least seventeen major brands with many companies creating their own mixes. Not all of them contain nuts; some contain cheese, chocolate or other foods.

What are the ingredients of Cracker Jacks popcorn? 

The ingredients are sugar, corn syrup, popcorn, peanuts, molasses, salt, corn or soybean oil and soy lecithin. 

Are any of these ingredients toxic to dogs? 

That depends on the definition of toxic. It is not like raisins or xylitol. Nothing overtly bad is in the mix. However, the combination can be toxic in large amounts.

Why else might feeding your dog Cracker Jacks be dangerous? 

There are a lot of reasons not to feed this particular treat to dogs. 

First, there are three types of sugar in them. 

The amount of each ingredient is visible in the order that they appear in. With sugar and corn syrup in the top two positions, it is mostly a sugary candy.

The reason that’s not good for dogs is that it can lead to something called pancreatitis. 

At the least it is an uncomfortable disorder but it is also potentially deadly. 

As with humans, fat and salt are also things to watch out for. Peanuts and the oils found in the product aren’t necessarily healthy fats, particularly for dogs. 

They can lead to the same problems we humans have with them; obesity, heart disease and kidney disease among them.

Peanuts and corn kernels that didn’t pop all the way are both considered canine choking hazards. They can also aspirate them, creating an emergency that could require surgery to repair.

What is the healthiest way to prepare popcorn for your dog? 

Popcorn in and of itself, as long as it’s fully popped, is actually a healthy snack. It’s the additions to it that turn it into something the dog shouldn’t eat. In fact, neither should we if the truth be known.

Using an air popper is one of the best ways to make canine popcorn. 

It doesn’t require oil, so no added fats are involved. You can skip the salt, so that’s out of the way. The popped kernels provide a great deal of fiber, which will help your dog stay regular.

There are also bunches of bad ways to prepare popcorn for your pooch. 

Unless you do the “brown paper bag” trick for making it, microwave popcorn is a bad plan. 

If you look at the ingredients list, you’ll see why. 

Jiffy pop and other stove top methods can be just as problematic. Store bought pre-popped popcorn is also on the bad idea list.

What are the best human snacks to share with your dog? 

Some fruits and vegetables are very dog friendly; others aren’t. 

When our dogs have had problems with diarrhea, canned pumpkin has come in very handy. 

As long as there are no added sugars, it is fine to give as a snack in moderation.

While processed meats are a bad plan, most unseasoned meat is acceptable. 

It is important to avoid giving a dog anything with bones in it, particularly small bones such as those found in fish. 

Salmon is a particularly good fish, as is chicken.

Peanut butter, in moderation, is a good choice for dogs. It is often used to get them to take some medications. 

Make sure that the peanut butter does not have xylitol in it, as that can be deadly.

 Peanut butter can also be amusing to watch them eat it, as it gets stuck to the roof of their mouths. The exaggerated licking is something to see.

Raw eggs are as unwise for dogs as they are for humans, but not necessarily for the same reason. 

While a dog may not get salmonella, they can pass it back to their unwary human. However, cooked eggs provide a lot of nutrients and protein.

While science has yet to prove it, there are some who claim that cooked eggs can help relieve a dog of nausea. 

It’s important to check with your vet before diagnosing and treating your dog; there may be serious medical reasons for the nausea.

Corn is something dogs can eat, and often love. It has a lot of nutrients in it. 

Once again, additives such as butter or salt aren’t a good plan, but really fresh corn doesn’t really need much of anything added to it.

As we get older, our idea of what constitutes a snack changes.

Where we might, as children, scoff at the idea of broccoli as a snack, raw broccoli actually makes a nice one. Dogs can eat it, either cooked or raw.

However, don’t dip it in the ranch dressing even if it is fat free…

There are some herbs that dogs can have and others that they can’t.

Before giving anything with herbs in it to your dog, check with the vet to make sure it’s safe and the amounts allowed per weight.

Basil, parsley, oregano and rosemary are all considered safe in food amounts for dogs.

On the other hand, don’t feed a dog anything in the onion family. That includes garlic, chives, onions, leeks and scallions. Aloe was once considered part of this family and should also be avoided. 

What are the fat, sugar, salt and calories in Cracker Jacks?

There is a lot of nutrition information for this product, and most of it is useful in deciding whether or not to share with your pup… or even if you want to eat them yourself. Amounts are metric based while percentages are based on a two thousand calorie diet.

There are thirty grams of carbs in a box of original Cracker Jacks. Nineteen of those grams come from the various sugars found in the product. There is also a small amount of fiber, coming mostly from the popcorn itself.

How they divided the fat up is questionable, but from the chart it looks like there are five grams of total fat. Two of them are just fat while three are saturated fat. Ninety milligrams of sodium are in the box as well as three grams of protein. Fortunately, there is no cholesterol.

What are the side effects of dogs eating too much sugar? 

The side effects in dogs are about the same as they are in people. Sugar can make the dog obese, cause type II diabetes and the worst outcome is the pancreatitis.

The size of the dog will dictate how much sugar is too much. As described by a dog expert recently, for a Chihuahua, one popped kernel is sort of like eating a Big Mac. For a dog the size of ours, at ninety pounds, it would take the whole box to be equal.

Pancreatitis can be a problem for all dog breeds, but tends to happen more in middle aged and older dogs. That said, there are a few breeds that are more prone to it at any age. Cocker Spaniels, Terriers, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, and Poodles are in that category. 

Pancreatitis is also prevalent in overweight dogs. It can be acute or chronic, and range from mild symptoms to severe enough to cause the dog’s death. Limiting sugar and making sure the dog stays at a healthy weight are two of the best ways to prevent the problem.

Be aware that sugar isn’t always something that ends in –ose. Maltodextrin is a type of sugar and there are other hidden sugars that may be in processed foods. These are just as bad as the –ose type sugars.

In order to have a healthy canine companion, contact your vet for more information about what your dog needs nutritionally as well as to make sure it is at an ideal weight. Diet and exercise are as important to the dog as it is to the human companion.

Your vet can also give you a more extensive list of what your dog can and cannot eat. This list may include common yard plants that you’ll want your dog to avoid. Playing catch with a stick from an avocado tree could be problematic, as there is a chemical toxic to dogs in the trees and fruit.

It may be tempting to give your dog human herbal remedies, but once again the vet is going to be crucial in making sure they are safe. As an example, willow bark is ok for humans but it isn’t all right for pets. It would be like giving them aspirin, as it served that purpose until it was synthesized.