Jello probably isn’t the first food you think of when considering what to feed your best friend. However, it seems as American as apple pie, with a history that stretches back to the late 1890s. The use of gelatin isn’t new, going back to the 1500s. The difference is its use for a dessert instead of as a thickening agent. It remains as popular as ever, with over 110 million Americans using it in 2020.
The question of can dogs eat jello boils down to two things. Is it safe to give your pet jello? Is there any nutritional value to offering your pet this treat? Our guide will provide a deep dive into both these queries to help you make an informed choice.
We have to begin with the ingredients to deep with this issue fully. Jello is about as simplistic as it gets, with only four ingredients. They include:
- Food coloring
Gelatin comes from the connective tissue of animals, primarily from the skin and bones. In the case of jello, the source is typically pigs and cows. That makes it a no-go for Jewish people who would consider it non-kosher. Interestingly, collagen is a component of the human body, making up the structure of the skin, cartilage, and ligaments. Some evidence suggests that it’s beneficial.
We can certainly cross off the water as a potential red flag. However, that leaves us with the remaining two ingredients that might pose problems for your dog.
Sugar versus Xylitol
Sugar is an issue if you have a diabetic pet. Since jello is typically sweet with a high glycemic index, it can cause a spike in blood sugar levels that can be harmful to your dog. It’s the same issue with humans who experience hypoglycemia when their glucose drops suddenly after eating these foods. The other red flag rests with the source of the sweetener.
Xylitol is a common artificial sweetener in many foods and drinks. It reduces caloric intake, which makes it a desirable ingredient for those watching their weight. Unfortunately, it’s toxic for pets and can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including nausea and hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Therefore, you should not feed your dog any foodstuffs that contain this ingredient in jello or any other food or beverage.
Jello comes in a variety of flavors, including those that are poisonous to both dogs and cats. They include grape and citrus. Your pet’s reaction will depend on their sensitivity to these ingredients. However, it does put jello off-limits for many pets if just because of the possibility of a reaction. There’s also the risk of an allergic reaction if your pet is allergic to beef or pork.
The fact remains that dogs can’t eat everything that you can, despite our genetic relationship. Many things that you can eat safely can cause dangerous reactions in your pup that can range anywhere from gastrointestinal distress to a full-blown allergic reaction.
The best advice we can give you is to introduce new foods slowly, with only small bits to start. Watch your dog for the first half hour after consumption. If he’s going to have a reaction, you’ll know right away that something is amiss.
While jello is marketed as a dessert, there are some redeeming qualities about it. A 100-gram serving contains 12.5 grams of protein and 0 grams of fat, according to the USDA. Dogs need a minimum of 20 grams of protein a day, so jello would appear to fit in line with what these canines need. To be fair, there’s not a lot else putting jello in the plus column.
The small number of ingredients means that there isn’t a lot beyond the protein that the gelatin source offers. The sugar also makes it a red flag. Therefore, the protein alone is not a justification for giving your dog jello. You can supplement this nutritional need in many other ways that are more beneficial on several scores.
Other than the problematic ingredients, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of negatives associated with jello other than the sugar issue. As with humans, sweeteners are empty calories, offering little nutritional value. That takes jello off the table for breeds prone to weight gain, such as Pugs. After all, there’s no reason to give it to your pet if it offers no benefits.
Kraft-Heinz, which owns the Jell-O brand, doesn’t provide specific allergen information, which is a problem if your dog has a known allergy. Their website suggests that you contact the company. That isn’t an unusual practice for a company of this size. They often source ingredients from multiple sources, making confirmation with the lot number essential.
Alternatives to Jello and DIY Treats
There are alternatives to jello if you want to give your pet this treat. However, many of the same concerns with problematic ingredients and allergens still exist, despite the different sources. We suggest doing the same scrutiny with any other foods you’d offer your dog before giving it to your pup. Reactions can range anywhere from hives and swelling to full-blown anaphylaxis.
You can make treats for your pet using ingredients that you know are safe for your dog. Your pup may benefit from having a more well-rounded diet as the debate of whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores continues. The protein supplement will certainly help on either score.
You may think jello being a suitable treat for a dog. However, there is a strong argument on either side of the equation, depending on whether the food contains ingredients that can cause an allergic or toxic reaction in your pup. Our advice is to avoid introducing your pooch to this dessert. It offers little nutritional value to make it a valuable addition to your pet’s diet.
Besides, do you really want a pup begging you for a taste every time you want to treat yourself to something special? Think about it.