Dogs tend to like a lot of foods that are meant for humans, such as chocolate or vanilla. But is vanilla bad for dogs?
Food meant for humans is obviously not made with dogs in mind, so plenty of human foods may actually turn out to be toxic for them.
Vanilla is generally not safe for dogs in the form we consume it in. Pure vanilla and vanilla pods are safe, though not particularly beneficial for dogs. However, vanilla extract and imitations contain some alcohol, and can result in alcohol poisoning in dogs.
We generally don’t consider vanilla to be dangerous for dogs because the foods we eat have such little vanilla content. However, knowing what foods are toxic to dogs is necessary as dog owners.
We looked into the different foods that dogs are unable to eat and digest, and what signs to look out for in case they do happen to consume them. We have compiled the information we found.
What Forms Can Vanilla Be Found In?
Vanilla is used in many different foods – particularly desserts – and is found in many forms. The form in which it exists can greatly impact its usage, and also its toxicity to dogs.
Vanilla pods have little seeds in them, called beans. Pods are generally found whole, and the beans within them are scraped out if you want to use them as natural flavoring.
Dried and ground vanilla beans can be used as sweeteners in powder form.
This is the form vanilla is most commonly found in, and is used in most dishes. It is a liquid solution created by soaking vanilla pods in water and alcohol, and is much less expensive than the beans themselves.
Vanilla Bean Paste
Vanilla powder and vanilla extract can be combined to make a paste.
Similar to vanilla extract, vanilla flavoring is when the pods are soaked in propylene glycol, instead of alcohol.
Can You Feed Your Dog Vanilla?
The basic rule of thumb is that you should not feed your dog vanilla. The toxicity of each form varies of course, so while some forms may be safe, the benefits your dog would get from them are practically none.
For example, vanilla pods are perfectly safe for your dog. If they were to steal a whole pod and eat it, it’s not a cause for concern and won’t result in any major problems. Vanilla pods don’t bring any benefit to your dog though, and are also very expensive. Rather than your dog, you may just find yourself fretting over your wallet.
Vanilla pods are also pure vanilla, so unless your dog eats a whole load of them at once, they may not even suffer from an upset stomach.
On the other hand, if your dog was to drink a bottle of vanilla extract – or even a little bit of it, this could cause some major problems. Vanilla extract and flavoring are very dangerous for dogs. For one thing, because they are both soaked in different kinds of alcohol, the alcohol content of each of these is very high.
Dogs’ livers are unable to process and digest alcohol. This means that if your dog ingests even a small amount of ethanol, they can suffer from alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol poisoning usually results in symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and dehydration. In severe cases, it may even cause unconsciousness and seizures. This is why you have to be very careful not to let your dog ingest any alcohol – including the alcohol in vanilla extracts.
If you know that your dog has drunk some vanilla, get them to a vet as soon as possible. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning take very little time to manifest, so you may see them almost immediately. The damage may be done, but you should hurry over to a vet at the earliest to get your dog checked for any major problems.
In some cases, your vet may induce vomiting to get rid of any alcohol in the dog’s system, while more serious cases may require intubation.
Is Alcohol-Free Vanilla Safe For Dogs?
Some forms of vanilla extract will use vegetable glycerin instead of alcohol. This is a non-toxic compound, and is generally safe for most dogs. Some canines may exhibit signs of allergies, but these are case-by-case and the risk is not an overarching one.
This means that vanilla extract made with vegetable glycerin is perfectly safe for dogs to consume, and they can drink it without any major health consequences.
That said, too much of anything is bad for the body – and that includes vanilla. If your dog has poked their nose into your baking cabinet, you should get them out before they consume too much of your vanilla extract, even if it is canine-safe.
Are Foods Containing Vanilla Safe For Your Dog?
More likely than your dog stealing vanilla pods or drinking extract from the bottle, is your dog eating food that contains vanilla. This could include cream and yogurt – foods that we would normally consider safe for dogs.
There are plenty of foods that contain vanilla that we feed to our furry friends without consideration, so how come they don’t get sick?
The reason could be that vanilla is often used in very small amounts in these treats. Cakes and biscuits will usually have only about a teaspoon of vanilla for the entire batter, which makes the overall alcohol content of the cake very low.
As such, while alcohol is still unsafe for dogs, we may not notice the impact because it is so insignificant.
However, if you do know that something contains vanilla, you should definitely look at what kind of vanilla was used and in what quantity. You should also take a look at the supplementary ingredients to see how those affect your dog.
Most treats have a high sugar content though, which is bad for canines. On top of that, they may also include xylitol as a sweetener, and this can be much more damaging for your dog’s health, than the small amount of vanilla used.
How To Feed Your Dog Vanilla
Ideally, you wouldn’t want to feed your dog any vanilla, because even in its purest form, it doesn’t have many benefits for your dog.
Vanilla does contain antioxidants, but it is used in such small quantities for most recipes that this benefit goes unrealized – for both humans and dogs. Unless you’re feeding your dog the entire pod, or extract with glycerin (which you probably aren’t), there is no benefit in wanting to feed your dog vanilla.
That said, vanilla does taste good, and maybe you want to give your dog a bit of a treat. In such cases, the only way you can safely feed your dog is to give them pure vanilla, or use extract made with vegetable glycerin. This can be expensive, but any other form of vanilla can be dangerous.
You can mix yogurt with the vanilla and freeze it for a while. This will make the yogurt taste of vanilla and be a yummy treat for your dog. You can also add some peanut butter for added flavoring.
So, is vanilla bad for dogs?
Yes, vanilla can be terrible for your dog. In its absolute pure form, vanilla is safe, as well as vanilla extract made with vegetable glycerin. However, beyond the taste, this vanilla offers no health benefit to your dog.
You can use these forms of vanilla to make canine treats, but if you realize your dog has consumed any amount of vanilla extract that contains alcohol, or any processed foods that contain xylitol, you should hurry to a vet. The consequences of consuming either of these can be life-threatening.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright