Most dogs are mesmerized by food, and their obsession occasionally gets them into trouble. Dogs are notorious for sneaking food from countertops, digging up vegetables from the garden, and many relish a spirited root around in the garbage can. They just can't help themselves. But if your dog has eaten yam, should you be worried? Are yams safe for dogs to eat?
What are yams?
Dating back to 50,000 B.C., yams are among the oldest cultivated tuber in recorded history. There are over 600 varieties of yams, most of which are native to Africa and Asia. Yams are often confused with sweet potatoes due to clever marketing, but the true yams that make their way into the U.S. come from the Caribbean.
Are yams the same as sweet potatoes?
The terms "yam" and "sweet potato" are often used interchangeably, but they're entirely different root vegetables. Yams have a coarse brown skin that is reminiscent of tree bark, and their flesh tastes starchy, rather than a sweet. Yams are frequently used in Caribbean and West African cooking. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are primarily found in the U.S. and have a yellow or orange flesh that is sugary in flavor.
True yams can be difficult to find in the U.S. Conventional grocery stores often label sweet potatoes as yams, when, in truth, they're often a variety of Louisiana sweet potato marketed as yam. However, health food stores and ethnic grocery stores often carry true yam.
Can dogs eat yams?
Yes, dogs can eat yams. Replete with vitamin C and fiber, yams are a no-fat, low-calorie treat for all dogs, especially chubby ones who are struggling with their weight.
Can dogs eat both cooked and raw yams?
While dogs can eat both cooked and raw yams, it's typically best for dogs to avoid the uncooked starches and fibers in raw yams because they can be difficult to digest.
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Dogs should avoid canned yams (which are rare in the U.S.) because they often contain preservatives, sugars and sodium — all of which can be problematic for dogs in large amounts. Also, if your dog has stolen cooked yams from the kitchen table, make sure the yams have not been prepared with nutmeg, which is toxic to dogs in any amount.
Health benefits of yams for dogs
Not only is yam a delicious treat for dogs, it's an age-old medicinal remedy for a variety of common ailments, including arthritis and diabetes. While researchers and veterinarians are still uncertain about the efficacy of yam as a medical treatment, there is evidence that suggests that this tuberous root vegetable is more than just tasty.
Yam contains a phytosteroid called diosgenin. It's an anti-inflammatory that has been used in clinical trials to treat rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic condition in many dogs that causes inflammation of the joints.
Improves Kidney and Liver Function
The diosgenin in yams is also a starting material for a variety of steroidal pharmaceuticals that are used to treat infections. A comprehensive 2002 study found that yam has the potential to "promote the release of GLP-1 and improve cell function in both the kidney and liver."
Researchers in the U.S. discovered that the nutrients and compounds in yams prevent carcinogenesis — the formation of cancer cells — by acting as an antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic agent.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Yam is rife with dioscoretine, which some veterinary researchers speculate helps regulate blood sugar levels, especially with diabetic dogs. While conclusive evidences has not yet been established — a joint study conducted by Garhwal University and Kumaun University claim the dioscoretine in yams, "improves insulin sensitivity."
Preparing yams to feed your dog
If you're wondering how to introduce yam into your diet, begin by feeding only a small amount of yam over a period of several weeks. It's always a good idea to proceed slowly with new foods to determine whether or not your dog has an allergy or a sensitivity..
Cut the yam into small, 1/4-inch pieces and boil or microwave until tender, but still firm. Place the yam squares into your dog's food bowl and mash with a fork alongside their regular food. Avoid feeding your dog raw yam. Never feed dogs canned yam or yam that has been prepared for humans. However, dried yam can be a tasty treat for dogs, and there are several products specifically formulated for canines.
One of the few concerns with feeding yam to dogs is the risk of choking or intestinal blockage. Intestinal blockage occurs when large chunks of food are swallowed and lodged somewhere in a dog's gastrointestinal tract. Blockage can be painful and often requires the attention of a veterinarian.
Yams are often confused with sweet potatoes, but they are entirely different. But regardless of their differences, both varieties of root vegetables are safe for dogs to eat. Yams are an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, and they're chock full of dietary fiber and other nutrients that are healthy for dogs.
It's best practice to feed dogs cooked yam that have been mashed or cut into small pieces. Avoid feeding dogs raw or canned yam.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.