A pile of marshmallows, which can be harmful for dogs.

Can Dogs Eat Marshmallows?

Marshmallows are a soft, fluffy confection originally made from Althaea officinalis (the mallow plant) that dates back to the ancient Egyptians. Humans (and dogs) love this sugary treat and, thanks to mass processing, over 90 million pounds are ingested by Americans yearly.

In modern times, marshmallow is made from a mix of sugar, corn syrup, water, gelatin, and vanilla flavoring, baked into molded shapes, and coated with confectioner’s sugar or cornstarch. They are commonly shaped into cubes, but can be molded into any shape (such as the ever popular Peeps® candy).

Can dogs eat marshmallows?

Yes, they can eat certain types of marshmallows (see what to watch out for below). Many dogs love the spongy, soft texture and sweet flavor. Some pet owners even use them to hide medication.

Although dogs can eat marshmallows, that doesn’t mean they should. This treat is high in calories and many are made with xylitol, which can be toxic.

The Dangers of Marshmallows for Dogs

When feeding marshmallows to your dog, keep the following dangers in mind:

  1. Because marshmallows are made from sugar and corn syrup, gastrointestinal upset or even pancreatitis can develop in some dogs. Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are common signs. Click here to learn more about pancreatitis.
  2. The high calorie content can contribute to obesity. They should not be fed to overweight dogs.
  3. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is often used in the production of marshmallows, which can cause xylitol toxicity in dogs (learn more here). Ingestion of even small amounts of food containing xylitol can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar, which can lead to seizures and even death. Another toxic effect from ingestion of xylitol in dogs is liver disease or liver failure. Always check the bag to determine if xylitol is an ingredient.
  4. Marshmallows with additional ingredients or flavors can increase the potential for gastrointestinal upset. Chocolate-dipped or flavor-coated types can lead to chocolate toxicity or pancreatitis.
  5. Although uncommon, some dogs may be allergic to the ingredients in marshmallows. Learn more about food allergies here.
  6. Marshmallows come in many different sizes, often 1.5 inches or larger. Large marshmallows have the potential to cause choking in small dogs.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats a Xylitol-Sweetened Marshmallow

If you witnessed your dog eating a marshmallow containing xylitol, contact your veterinarian or closest veterinary emergency clinic immediately.

Xylitol is a sugar-alcohol sweetener found in many sugar-free human foods including candy, baked goods, peanut butter, and gum. Ingestion can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, leading to lethargy, weakness, loss of coordination, and seizures in as little as 30 minutes. Symptoms can last for hours. Treatment involves frequent glucose checks and supplementation with intravenous dextrose. An additional concern is that some dogs can develop life-threatening liver failure.

Because of the possible dangers of xylitol, your veterinarian may recommend to induce vomiting if the ingestion was recent. They may also recommend that you seek veterinary care immediately.

The Safest Way to Feed Marshmallows to Your Dog

The safest way to feed marshmallows to your dog is in small portions. Based on the ingredients and lack of nutritional benefits, there are other snacks that are healthier for your dog. Options for healthier treats include small pieces of carrots, broccoli, green beans, or small pieces of a fruit, like an apple. If your dog shows any sign of illness, please call your veterinarian or closest veterinary emergency clinic immediately.

Do Dogs Need Marshmallows in Their Diet?

Although many dogs absolutely love these sugary snacks, there is nothing in them that they require. What dogs do need is a high-quality, AAFCO-dog food. Learn more about what dogs need in their diet here.