Marshmallows are essential in s’mores, hot chocolate, and many sweet treats—but can dogs enjoy them, too? We talked to an expert to find out.

By Madison Pincombe
November 19, 2020
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When the winter and holiday season comes around, us humans like to celebrate with marshmallows in our sweet drinks and treats. Although we may not always like to admit it, sometimes it’s also hard to resist eating them by the handful. As you cozy up and enjoy the pillows of sugar (in whatever quantity you desire), you might be wondering if your dog can eat marshmallows, too. According to an ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center expert, the answer depends on the ingredients and the quantity.

Can Dogs Eat Marshmallows Safely?

Store-bought marshmallows are primarily a mix of three ingredients: sugar, corn syrup and gelatin. Some marshmallows contain the additive xylitol. “If [marshmallows] contain xylitol, a common sugar substitute, they should be kept away from all pets,” ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Senior Director Tina Wismer, DVM, says. 

Xylitol is toxic to your dog and can be extremely harmful, even in small quantities. “Desserts can contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol that can cause low blood sugar and liver damage in dogs,” Wismer says. She advises pet owners to look out for xylitol in both food products and consumer goods.

Credit: Ng Sok Lian / EyeEm / GlobalP / Getty / Yeji Kim

When Too Many Marshmallows Can Be Dangerous for Dogs

If marshmallows do not contain xylitol, technically, it's OK for your dog to eat them. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that marshmallows are good for dogs. “While marshmallows aren’t necessarily toxic to dogs, it’s best for them to never consume too many,” Wismer says. “They can be high in sugar which can lead to stomach upset.” Marshmallows have little, if any, nutritional value, so it's a much better option to find healthier snacks for your dog. If you're looking for a snack you can both consume, keep in mind that dogs can safely eat green beans, carrots, and even watermelon.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Marshmallows

Effects of xylitol poisoning in dogs can occur quickly after ingestion. If you think that your dog ate marshmallows that contain xylitol, call your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian will determine if your dog ingested a toxic dose of xylitol and if it’s safe to induce vomiting at home, or if you need to make a trip to the emergency vet.

It’s also a good idea to keep the ASPCA Poison Control Center hotline (888) 426-4435 in your phone contacts in case of emergency. If your dog has eaten too many (non-xylitol) marshmallows, watch for vomiting, lack of appetite, and diarrhea. If those symptoms persist, call your veterinarian.

Other Foods That Are Bad for Dogs

It’s important to understand what foods you can share with your dog and what foods you should add to your pup’s “do not eat” list.

This includes one of the marshmallow’s best friends and a key part of the s’mores trifecta: chocolate.

Chocolate contains substances called methylxanthines that can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death,” Wismer says. Interestingly enough, dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate as it contains higher levels of methylxanthines.

You'll also need to keep grapes and raisins out of your pup's reach. Ingesting grapes or raisins can lead to kidney failure in extreme cases. (Same goes for wine, though you can share this special dog beer—no alcohol included—with your pup on a cozy night in!)