Whether you’ve created a bonfire during the summer or settled near the campfire on a retreat, someone usually brings out the marshmallows. Toasted nicely over the flames, they’re the perfect treat. (And if you make s’mores? Perfection!) The smooshy, squishy confection tops a lot of people’s list of guilty pleasures. And marshmallows come in so many forms! Colorful versions in cereals, itty-bitty ones in hot cocoa mixes, and enormous monsters. Not to mention the ever-popular Peeps and marshmallow fluff. And like potato chips, you can’t get away with JUST ONE. But as you reach a hand into the bag, you might notice your dog’s head tilted in curiosity. Which prompts YOUR curiosity. Can dogs eat marshmallows? And while it seems like they’re mostly air, the answer’s an emphatic NO. Because as light and fluffy as marshmallows are, they’re packed full of sugar – too much for canines to handle.
Believe it or not, marshmallows trace their history to the mallow plant. The first marshmallows came from boiling pieces of the plant’s roots with honey. And while they WERE sweet, they were actually used to soothe sore throats and coughs. (This is something many herbalists still use the mallow plant for) It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that marshmallows turned into the confection we recognize today. French candy makers used the same mallow root, but they added sugar, water, and egg whites. And later down the road, the mallow ended up replaced with gelatin (though everyone kept the name).
Modern marshmallows don’t contain much in the way of ingredients. Most consist of gelatin, sugar, corn syrup (more sugar), vanilla extract, and either corn starch or powdered sugar. It IS a fat-free food. But healthy? Yeah, that marshmallows are NOT. If you down 1 cup of miniature marshmallows, you get 159 calories. And in those calories? This is what you take away:
- Carbohydrates: 41g
- Protein: 0.9g
- Sodium: 40mg
- Sugar: 29g
When dogs eat marshmallows, they get a ridiculous amount of sugar their systems DON’T need. (Well, so do you, but that’s beside the point) And they’re not gaining ANY nutritional benefit – because there isn’t any. You don’t find vitamins or minerals in marshmallows. And while there’s a squeak of protein in there, it’s not enough to make a difference to your dog. A marshmallow is nothing more than empty calories and wasteful sugar.
Can Dogs Eat Marshmallows?
However, plenty of dogs eat marshmallows. Owners often use them to administer medications. And accidents happen all the time. When your back’s turned, your pup dives into the Easter basket you left on the table and devours a handful of Peeps (with some chocolate eggs, no less). Are the marshmallows toxic in the way chocolate can be? No. However, that doesn’t mean you should allow your dog to eat them – even for medication-administration purposes. The sugar levels are simply too high and will predispose your pup to problems down the road. And there ARE marshmallows out there that ARE toxic. If you don’t read labels carefully, you could end with a canine in critical care. So avoiding dogs eating marshmallows is in your best interest.
When Dogs Eat Marshmallows: Sugar
Dogs aren’t built to handle sugar. One mini marshmallow here or there may not cause a problem. But if you need to break out the bag every day to administer pills several times a day? That’s LOTS of sugar. Your dog’s going to end up with some nasty health problems down the road – on TOP of whatever you’re coping with.
Sugar rots teeth. Everyone knows that. And dogs aren’t immune. As dogs eat marshmallows, they introduce all of those sugars into their dental system. And dogs DO get cavities. Even if you keep up with proper dental care, you’ll end up undermining the work. The cost of a single bag of marshmallows WON’T compete against needing to pay for your dog’s tooth extractions.
And as sugar builds up over and over, your dog’s pancreas feels the pressure. Before you know it, you can face pancreatitis or even diabetes. All from dogs eating marshmallows – even now and then! And once they’ve suffered from the first bout of pancreatitis, it’s much easier for them to get a second or third. Not to mention that a diabetic dog CAN’T have sugar – even natural sugars, such as those found in fruit. You’re better off skipping this overly sweet treat in favor of something safer, such as watermelon.
By now, most of us recognize the hazards of too much sugar in our diets. And companies have responded by producing sugar-free sweets. Even marshmallows come in sugar-free versions. Great for us, but TERRIBLE for dogs. Sugar-free items use artificial sweeteners, and one of the most common is xylitol. We have no problem with xylitol. But dogs? It’s TOXIC in canines.
Xylitol causes problems with the liver and blood sugar in dogs. And it takes very LITTLE. When dogs eat marshmallows containing xylitol, they can end up hospitalized for DAYS. You MUST pay attention to the packaging. (Or, you know, avoid the situation entirely by not allowing your pup to have marshmallows in the first place)
“Xylitol can cause dangerously low blood sugar, leading to seizures and even death if the dog is not treated properly. It has been shown to be toxic to the liver, even days after ingestion.”~Carly Fox, DVM, New York City’s Animal Medical Center
Signs of xylitol toxicity include:
- Trouble walking or even standing
If you suspect your dog’s eaten even ONE MINI marshmallow with xylitol, get to your veterinarian immediately. They need to try to induce vomiting and start decontamination. You SHOULD expect your dog to end up hospitalized for several days. Xylitol remains a threat for up to FORTY-EIGHT hours. And your vet will want to monitor your dog’s liver and kidney values for that long.
When CAN Dogs Eat Marshmallows?
You feel bad about depriving your dog of this sticky treat. After all, the rest of the family gets to have marshmallows all the time. (Maybe not all the time; they aren’t precisely good for us, either) So how do you allow dogs to eat marshmallows without making them sick or leading them down the road to tooth decay and diabetes?
Easy – you make your own! And not the traditional marshmallows, either. You make doggie marshmallows. Honey is a less complex sugar, making it a little easier on your dog’s stomach than the white sugar and powdered sugar of a traditional marshmallow. And if you don’t like using gelatin? Agar is a vegan-friendly alternative that works the same way.
Keeping Dogs Safe During Camping Trips
We love our marshmallows. They brighten our mugs of hot cocoa. And when we get together around bonfires? Nothing brings everyone together better. But when it comes to dogs eating marshmallows? It’s better to avoid the situation. There’s too much sugar. And sugar-free is NOT an option. So no matter how much your dog whines or shows you those big puppy eyes, hold firm. There are better – and safer – treats out there to share.