Although it may seem like a wild concept, anyone who has eaten jello around dogs knows that they go truly wild for it. Given the chance to eat it with their owners, dogs go into hyper drive around jello.
Obviously, that might lead you to wonder: can dogs eat jello? For example, you’re in the kitchen, and your dog is begging for a sampling from your mix. So can your dogs eat strawberry jello with you, and actually benefit from it, too?
What Does Jello Contain?
Jello is a clear jelly pudding-like mix that is very popular with children as well as with adults. Commercially available jello mixes are a mixture of water, gelatin powder, synthetic flavouring, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and food-safe colours.
Making jello is a simple process of adding the mix to boiling water and then letting the mix set, into the wobbly dessert that we all know and love.
But here, it gets interesting. The gelatin that is used in jello is an animal origin product that gives jello its characteristic consistency. There are also commercial brands that sell vegetarian or vegan options of jello. These make the dessert jiggly without having any real gelatin in it.
The sugar, sweeteners, flavoring, and coloring all vary from brand to brand, but are not always safe for dogs. And when considered individually, the verdict of whether dogs can have jello depends on each of the ingredients.
Is Gelatin Bad For Dogs?
Gelatin is a colorless, odorless, tasteless extract made from the bones and tissue derived from poultry, beef, pig, etc. Gelatin mainly consists of the protein, collagen, and is made by boiling the skin and bones of animals, as a byproduct of meat manufacturing.
In the body (including in human bodies), collagen is a massively important structural protein. It is found in all skeletal and supporting tissue, and is the backbone of structures like joints, muscles, connective tissue, etc.
Collagen is an essential part of all canines’ diets. Wild canines like wolves get it from their prey. Gelatin also provides canines with essential amino acids, such as glycine. Without adequate glycine intake in their food, dogs can even develop seizure disorders.
Gelatin is literally the proteins extracted from skin, bones, and leftover byproducts of meat processing. Good quality gelatin is therefore a very good source of collagen for your dog. It helps in strengthening dogs’ bones, nails, teeth, muscles, joints, skin, fur, really practically everything in dogs’ skeletal systems.
Gelatin is also extremely mild for dogs to digest, and does not irritate their stomachs at all. Being all protein with no added substances, gelatin gives dogs a solid protein meal, with no filler or irritant additives in it at all.
While good quality gelatin is good for dogs. There are plenty of poorer quality versions out there, that are derived from swine or beef stock, and watered down greatly. The best gelatin for dogs is made from chicken bones and other poultry, like turkey. That yields the best quality gelatin for dogs.
So is gelatin good for dogs? Yes, extremely good! But only without any harmful extra additives – which jello can often have.
Can Dogs Eat Sugar Free Jello?
You might think that sugar-free jello is a good option for dogs, because sugar is a known troublemaker in dogs. Jello with sugar in it is practically like a wobbly sugar syrup dessert.
That much sugar overloads dogs’ digestive systems and causes their insulin levels to spike abnormally. Dogs are omnivores and can process carbohydrates, but simple sugars in large amounts are very, very bad for dogs’ overall health, as well as their dental health.
In light of this, sugar-free jello seems like it would make a good, low-calorie treat for a dog, but the reality is quite the opposite.
Sugar-free jello (and most other sugar-free snacks) contains artificial sweeteners to ensure that the sweet taste is retained, without all the calories of normal sugar (sucrose). Commonly found artificial sweeteners include
- Lo Han Guo extract, etc.
But artificial sweeteners are almost invariably toxic to dogs. Artificial sweeteners need to be used in smaller amounts than sugar, but their potency can still be problematic to fatal for dogs.
Consumption of artificial sweeteners by dogs causes symptoms ranging from mild gastrointestinal discomfort to severe diarrhea and erosions along the intestinal lining.
While Saccharine, sucralose, etc. are safe for dogs in very small amounts, it’s hard to regulate exactly how much jello with added sweeteners can trigger an upset stomach or worse for your dog.
And then there’s sweeteners like Xylitol, which causes very severe symptoms in dogs, even when ingested in small amounts. Xylitol can cause seizures, fatal drops in blood pressure, permanent renal damage, and a host of other multisystem effects in dogs. After ingesting xylitol, dogs can go alarmingly quickly into comas and die.
Taking these factors into consideration, sugar-free jello is a very big no-no for your dog. Sure, maybe if your dog is a medium to large dog, and he gets a small spoonful on a rare occasion, he’ll be able to tolerate it. But not on a regular basis. It does not even have any unusual benefits for dogs. So even if you find store-bought sweetened jello with Lo Han Guo extract, for example (which is safe for dogs), it’s not quite worth it.
Can Dogs Have Jello?
Taking these points into consideration, the verdict is that no, jello is bad for dogs. But here, we mean commercial jello. While the gelatin contained in jello is massively beneficial for dogs, the other ingredients have a host of side effects that are detrimental to your dog’s health.
In fact, the only remaining ingredient in store-bought jello, aka artificial flavors and synthetic food grade colors, are also bad for your dog’s health. For example, if you buy a pre-packaged strawberry jello mix, it’s bad for your dog.
But if you’re wondering if dogs can eat strawberry jello, the answer is yes! Made with fresh strawberries and gelatin only, that’s the kind of jello a dog will benefit from.
Similarly, lime and lemon jello mixes from supermarkets are a bad idea, because dogs do not tolerate lime or lemon.
So is jello safe for dogs? Yes! But only if it’s the homemade, sugar and sweetener and additive free version. Plain gelatin with added fruit or veggie pieces is enough for your dog.
Benefits Of Giving Your Dog Jello
Feeding your dogs homemade jello is highly recommended because of its high nutritional value. Homemade jello should be made with gelatin, water, and doggy-safe fruits or vegetables to add flavor.
The benefits of giving your dog jello are mostly derived from the gelatin content. When the protein collagen is cooked in water, it turns into gelatin. But this gelatin retains all the ‘building block’ amino acids of collagen.
Therefore, when your dog eats gelatin, he receives all these amino acids, which are then used by his body. In dogs, gelatin helps by
- Providing an easy to digest, non-irritant, protein-rich meal for dogs, which has proteins in the form of hydrolyzed collagen. Not only is this easily absorbed, but also can be reutilized in the body much easier, in comparison to complex protein sources.
- Soothes inflamed digestive tracts with its mild flavor and soft consistency.
- Helps in the repair and regenerative processes in dogs with degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, joint diseases, age-related changes, etc.
- Provides fundamental amino acids used in the maintenance and repair of your dog’s skin, fur, nails, teeth, bones, joints, etc.
- Has a significant anti-inflammatory effect.
- Provides growing pups and dogs with protein essential for their rapid growth.
- Provides older dogs with additional protein that helps protect their bones and joints.
- Improves memory and cognitive function in dogs, while additionally protecting them from developing seizure disorders.
- Can be used as a good low carbohydrate, low-fat and cholesterol-free food for dogs.
If you like, you can feed your dog plain gelatin gummies, or softer jello. Homemade jello can be made even more beneficial for dogs by adding vegetables and fruits that are good for dogs to the mix.
Side Effects of Giving Your Dog Jello
Dogs who eat too much store-bought jello or get into the people-food stash too much, are at risk of developing the following:
- High blood sugar, which over time can lead to insulin imbalances and eventually diabetes
- Higher risk of heart disease
- Likelihood of developing hypertension and obesity
- Higher chances of intermittent fevers, arrhythmias, repetitive bouts of dehydration, etc.
- Higher chance of developing pancreatitis
- Chronic upset stomachs, irritated bowels, abdominal pain and discomfort, flatulence, vomiting.
Not to mention, dogs who eat sugar-free jello with artificial sweeteners face the very real risk of fatality, if sweeteners like Xylitol are in the mix.
The verdict remains that store-bought jello should be stored far away from your dog. But jello made at home? Now that’s a suitable doggy treat!