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With Thanksgiving around the corner, you might be wondering which dinner staples you can share with your pup. Good news: When it comes to sweet potatoes, your dog can get in on the festivities. These root vegetables are loaded with nutrients, such as the carotenoids, vitamin C and vitamin A, in addition to antioxidants and phytochemicals. They are high in pyridoxine, potassium, fiber, and magnesium. They’re also good sources of copper, iron, and manganese — all essential minerals for dogs that perform myriad functions in cells, from transporting oxygen to assisting in the assembly of proteins. All this, plus they’re low in fat.
Are sweet potatoes actually potatoes?
What's in a name, anyway? While sweet potatoes are indeed called “potatoes,” they aren’t related to white potatoes (insert head exploding emoji here). And they do come in many colors besides the more familiar orange. The Japanese sweet potato has a purple skin and yellow flesh, and its flavor is actually sweeter — something that dogs love — than the more popular orange varieties. It also is particularly rich in phytonutrients. Although in the U.S., sweet potatoes are often called yams, the true yam is actually another root vegetable with a rough and scaly texture. In supermarkets, the names “sweet potato” and “yam” tend to be used interchangeably.
How to add sweet potatoes to your dog’s diet
Do not give dogs raw sweet potatoes; they should always be cooked. Steam and mash them, then add a little to your dog’s normal meal. Steaming or boiling actually maintains more of their nutrients than roasting or baking does. Because they are rich in fiber, introduce sweet potatoes slowly.
Many homemade dog food recipes call for sweet potatoes, including this complete and balanced recipe for chicken and vegetables, or this one for homemade kibble. Cooked sweet potatoes are also tasty in a Kong; freeze it so it takes longer for your pup to finish!
One of the most popular ways to give your dog sweet potatoes is as dehydrated chews. They make a great alternative to rawhide chews — and unlike rawhide, sweet potato chews do not have a reputation for causing digestive blockages and choking. They are a lot safer — and definitely more nutritious.
Another recipe for sweet potato-based dog treats is this one for easy-to-make sweet potato chips.
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Claudia Kawczynska was co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Bark for 20 years. She also edited the best-selling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot.