The answer to the question "can dogs eat marshmallows?" is not a straightforward one. In short, marshmallows are not safe for dogs and should be avoided. If your dog accidentally gets into a bag of marshmallows, it's important to understand what dangerous ingredients to look for and when to seek urgent care.
Marshmallows Are Not a Safe Treat for Dogs
Technically, regular marshmallows (those containing only sugar, gelatin, and corn syrup) are not toxic to dogs. If a dog eats one or a few of this kind, it likely won't hurt them. But these sugary confections do not provide your dog with any nutritional value, plus they're packed with harmful sugar and empty calories. It's best to avoid offering this food to your dog and instead give them something healthier.
So, if sugar is harmful, are sugar-free types a better option? The answer is no. Many marshmallow varieties advertised as sugar-free or low-carb contain xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs. These are the marshmallows to worry about. If your dog gets ahold of even one small marshmallow containing this ingredient, it can make them very sick or even be fatal.
Dangers of Xylitol
Xylitol is a common sugar substitute used in sugar-free products like marshmallows. Although it's fine for humans to consume, it's highly toxic to dogs. When xylitol enters their system, it signals an immediate release of insulin, which then leads to a sudden and dangerous drop in blood sugar. This response typically occurs within 10 to 60 minutes after consumption. Without treatment, low blood sugar can lead to seizures and eventually death. There's also evidence that xylitol can cause liver damage or failure.
Dangers of Sugar
Even though it's technically not toxic, sugar is still harmful for dogs. Consuming large amounts of sugar increases a dog's risk of developing dental cavities, obesity, diabetes, and hormone related diseases. Sugar also disrupts the natural good bacteria of the gut, resulting in unpleasant digestive upset like diarrhea and vomiting.
What to Do if Your Dog Ate Marshmallows
If you've discovered that your dog ate several or even just a few marshmallows, it's critical to determine the ingredients included in the treat in question.
- If the marshmallows contain xylitol or chocolate, seek immediate veterinary care, or call an animal poison hotline for guidance.
- If the marshmallows do not contain xylitol or any other toxic ingredients, they could still be harmful. A single regular marshmallow likely won't make your dog sick, but multiple could. Try to figure out how many marshmallows your dog ingested (for example, 12 marshmallows, 1/4 of the bag, 3 bags, etc.) then check in with your vet. They may recommend inducing vomiting to protect your pet or might advise that you monitor for concerning symptoms.
Symptoms to Look for
If you're worried that your dog got into marshmallows, be sure to watch for concerning signs. Keep in mind that vomiting and diarrhea can occur even with regular marshmallows that contain sugar instead of xylitol. If these symptoms persist or worsen, it's important to call your vet.
Symptoms of xylitol toxicity can appear within 30 minutes up to 12 hours following ingestion. Seek urgent care if your pup shows any of the following signs.
- Difficulty standing on walking
- Loss of consciousness
Alternative Treat Options
Does your dog have a sweet tooth? There are plenty of healthy, sweet treats you can share instead.
- Sweet squash
Some people recommend using a marshmallow to hide pills when medicating their dog. Although a regular marshmallow might be fine every once in a while, this isn't a treat you should feed often or regularly. Try Greenies Pill Pockets or a small amount of cream cheese to hide medications instead.
Avoid Marshmallows for Dogs
Because of the numerous risks associated with marshmallows, it's best to avoid giving your dog this sugary confection. Instead, give them a dog-safe fruit or treat made specifically for dogs. If your pup gets into marshmallows, find out if they contain any toxic ingredients like xylitol and seek help accordingly.