Can I Give My Dog Marshmallows?
Aside from vaccines, musical theatre, and airplanes, marshmallows are arguably mankind’s greatest invention. They are soft and chewy, they have a long shelf life, they appeal to just about everyone, and they have the power to turn any boring old snack into something worth getting excited about. The best way to eat marshmallows is to light them on fire and sandwich them between graham crackers, but we are not picky. Though some of us are perfectly happy to eat marshmallows straight out of the bag, most of us prefer to get creative. We mix marshmallows into fruit salads, drop them on top of hot cocoa and ice cream sundaes, and bake them into sweet potatoes. We find them in boxes of cereal, trail mix, and candy bars, too. Our daily lives are full of opportunities to eat marshmallows.
That means our pets’ lives are full of opportunities to eat marshmallows, too. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Are a few miniature marshmallows an acceptable treat for Fido? Can dogs have marshmallows?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat marshmallows as a rare treat. Though your dog’s health would probably benefit from leaving processed desserts like marshmallows off the table for good, there is nothing in marshmallows that would be poisonous to them. As long as it does not become a habit, feeding your dog a couple marshmallows is no cause for concern.
Unfortunately, safe does not necessarily mean healthy. While dogs may be able to reap some health benefits from some calorically dense ‘people foods’ such as nut butters, potatoes, and avocados, marshmallows are nutritionally empty. Unlike many of the other people foods that are safe for canines, this snack food has none of the vitamins or minerals that your dog needs to be fit and healthy. This means that, nutritionally, there is no justification for giving this snack to your dog. As treats go, marshmallows may be ‘safe,’ but they are definitely not one of the healthiest options!
Though feeding your dog a handful of marshmallows will not necessitate an emergency rush to the vet, it can damage your dog’s health in the long run. This is because (surprise!) marshmallows are junk food, and like many of our favorite junk foods, they are full of added sugar. Refined sugar will not poison your dog immediately, but it can do a lot of damage to their health in the long run.
Foods like marshmallows are high in added sugar and low in fiber, which means that they can cause sudden spikes in blood sugar. These spikes are followed by an increase in insulin, which results in a sharp drop in blood sugar a short time after eating. This can leave your dog feeling hungry, lethargic, or sick. It can also contribute to insulin resistance and type two diabetes over time. This is why most veterinarians recommend keeping the added sugar to an absolute minimum!
With a high amount of added sugar comes an increased risk of weight gain. Junk food is one of the biggest causes of canine obesity, which afflicts over half of all dogs in the United States. Your pudgy Poodle may have an adorable little waddle, but their body fat percentage is anything but cute—dogs who are carrying too much body fat often suffer from decreased energy levels and a reduced ability to enjoy exercise.
In addition, obese dogs are far more likely to suffer from diseases like insulin resistance, type two diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, kidney problems, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and many different types of cancer. Too much extra body weight puts quite a bit of stress on your dog’s organs, which may be why obese dogs often have a shorter life expectancy than their healthy weight counterparts.
Things to Consider
If your dog is already overweight, it would probably be a good idea to avoid giving them any junk food whatsoever. There are far healthier ways to satisfy your pup’s sweet tooth! Healthier treat options include apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, carrots, blueberries, strawberries, and watermelon. All of these foods have dietary fiber, which is thought to offset the blood sugar spike that comes with eating sugar. In addition, these natural, whole foods are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will protect your dog’s health.
One more note: it is never safe to give your dog anything that is dipped in or flavored with chocolate. Chocolate flavored or chocolate covered marshmallows should be completely off limits!
In the end, giving your dog a handful of mini marshmallows a couple times a year is not going to do them any harm. Marshmallows are not poisonous to dogs. They are, however, high in sugar and empty calories, which can increase your dog’s risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and several forms of cancer. Feel free to give Fido a marshmallow when you take him camping, but don’t make a habit of it.