Used in baking, for perfume, and in aromatherapy, vanilla is considered to be the most popular aroma and flavor in the world. It’s also one of the most expensive spices in the world, second in cost only to saffron. If you have wondered whether dogs can have vanilla, it depends on how the vanilla is being used. Vanilla is used in a vast number of products, sometimes alone and sometimes with ingredients that are not safe for dogs. In addition, some products use imitation or artificial vanilla instead of real vanilla.
Vanilla is a spice that comes from a group of tropical climbing orchids. They are primarily obtained from pods of the Mexican species the flat-leaved vanilla (V. planifolia). Vanilla beans are extracted from the pods and used as a flavoring agent. Vanilla growing originated in Mesoamerica. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that vanilla began to be grown commercially. Today most vanilla is grown on Madagascar and in Indonesia in the Pacific. Growing and picking vanilla is labor-intensive which contributes to its high price.
Since vanilla is a spice, it isn’t used as a food by itself. We had to choose an item that contains vanilla to look at its nutritional value. We chose vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is sometimes made with imitation vanilla. These nutritional values refer to real, pure vanilla extract.
Vanilla is made by steeping vanilla beans in ethyl alcohol and water. In order to be considered “pure vanilla extract,” it has to contain a minimum of 35 percent alcohol and at least 100 grams of vanilla beans per liter.
Vanilla extract contains 17 percent carbohydrates. It’s very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. However, a large portion of the calories come from sugars and alcohol.
One teaspoon of vanilla extract contains 11.5 calories, 0.5 grams of carbohydrates, 0 dietary fiber, 0 starches, and 0.5 grams of sugars. It has 0 protein. It has 0 vitamins. However, it does have some trace amounts of minerals: 0.4 mg of calcium, 0.5 mg of magnesium, 0.2 mg of phosphorus, 5.9 mg of potassium, and 0.4 mg of sodium.
It has 1.4 grams of alcohol per teaspoon and 2.1 grams of water.
We did find a few health benefits associated with vanilla extract and vanilla beans.
Vanilla is rich in the phenolic plant compound vanillin. Vanillin has been linked to antioxidant properties, anti-cancer research, anti-inflammatory effects, and neuroprotection for brain health and neurodegenerative diseases. More research is needed regarding vanillin.
Natural vanilla extract has hundreds of compounds, including vanillin. However, synthetic vanilla only produces vanillin. It’s possible that synthetic vanillin has different health effects than natural vanillin. Unfortunately, growing vanilla is very labor-intensive. It typically requires hand-pollination on small orchid farms. Growers are producing less vanilla today instead of more.
Vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder in foods may also help reduce sugar intake. Adding vanilla as a flavor to some foods seems to reduce the desire for sugar. The vanilla provides its own kind of sweetness without needing sugar.
Is Vanilla Safe for Pets?
Vanilla is safe for dogs. However, you don’t usually find vanilla by itself. It’s used as a flavoring or scent, often with other things. It’s a popular scent added to potpourri or air freshener. It’s also very popular as a flavoring in foods.That means that you always need to consider the other ingredients that appear with vanilla. Some of them are not so safe for dogs.
- Vanilla beans (whole vanilla beans, vanilla bean powder)
There are countless ways to use vanilla beans in your cooking. You can use them in both sweet and savory dishes. You can also use them to make your own body powder. You can use them to make your house smell wonderful. Vanilla has a pleasing, calming scent that most people enjoy.
If your dog happens to eat a vanilla bean, it shouldn’t harm him. Vanilla beans have a rich, intense flavor, especially before they are completely dried out. Your dog might make faces or find the flavor strong, but the beans shouldn’t be a problem. If you have any doubts, call your veterinarian.
- Pure vanilla or natural vanilla
“Pure vanilla” or natural vanilla usually refers to a vanilla flavoring that is not made with alcohol. Otherwise, it is basically the same as vanilla extract. Some people prefer to avoid using the alcohol that is contained in vanilla extract. Both pure vanilla and vanilla extract are made from vanilla beans.
(Vanilla extract is also referred to as “pure vanilla extract.”)
If your dog somehow manages to get a bottle of pure vanilla, it should not cause any harm. We don’t recommend it, but it doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients. It’s made from vanilla beans, water, and vegetable glycerin. If you have any questions, contat your veterinarian.
- Vanilla extract
Also called “pure vanilla extract.” It’s not recommended to give your dog vanilla extract or imitation vanilla extract. That’s because it has a relatively high alcohol content. Extracts of all kinds contain about 35 percent alcohol to infuse the flavor with the water. Honestly, you would have to drink a lot of vanilla extract to really feel the effects. Most sources say that it would take 4-5 ounces to get drunk from vanilla extract . Most bottles of vanilla extract sold in supermarkets are only one- or two-ounce bottles. If a dog happens to consume one of these small bottles, especially a small dog, he could feel some effects. There’s really no reason to ever give your dog vanilla extract by itself.
If your dog does somehow drink a bottle of vanilla extract, call your veterinarian for advice. It’s unlikely to produce any lasting serious effects but it will be similar to a dog drinking any other alcoholic beverage.
- Imitation vanilla
Because vanilla extract is expensive compared to most spices, imitation vanilla extract https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanilla is frequently used instead. Not only is it sold in grocery stores but many bakeries and large companies also use imitation vanilla. The imitation variety usually relies on vanillin which is produced artificially. You should treat foods and products containing imitation vanilla the same way you would treat real vanilla.
- Vanilla paste
Vanilla paste is made from vanilla beans, vanilla extract, and natural thickeners. It’s handy to use in the kitchen when you want to add vanilla to dishes. Most pastes also contain added sugars and/or corn syrup. Because of the added sugars, vanilla paste is not recommended for dogs.
- Desserts that contain vanilla
- ice cream
None of these deserts that contain vanilla will harm your dog in small amounts due to the vanilla. However, it’s always possible that they might contain other ingredients that could be harmful to dogs. For example, it’s not at all unusual for a chocolate cake to call for a small amount of vanilla extract for flavor. Chocolate, of course, is harmful to dogs even if the vanilla isn’t.
Some desserts today, especially if they are commercially-made, use xylitol (“birch sugar”) instead of white or brown sugar in the recipe. Xylitol can be fatal to dogs.
Before giving your dog a taste of dessert that contains vanilla in any form, be sure to check all of the ingredients to make sure they are not harmful to dogs.
You might be surprised to learn that some dog treats and cookies contain some vanilla for flavoring. (My dogs love these cookies from Three Dog Bakery. Don’t tell us they have bad ingredients. My dogs don’t care.)
There are also lots of recipes online for dog treats and cookies that use a little vanilla in some form.
Can You Give Your Dog Vanilla to Eat?
As you can see after looking at some of the ways to use vanilla, there are some safe ways your dog can have some vanilla. There are also some ways that your dog should not have vanilla.
- NO to vanilla extract because of the alcohol content.
- NO to foods that contain lots of added sugar.
- NO to foods that might contain xylitol or other ingredients harmful to dogs.
However, many other foods that contain vanilla in some form should be safe for your dog, especially in small amounts. Even foods that require some vanilla extract during baking should not harm your dog once they are cooked. Baking/cooking gets rid of the alcohol content in the extract.
Since vanilla is a spice, it’s normally only used in very small amounts in any food. Your dog shouldn’t eat or drink more than just a small amount of a food or drink that contains vanilla. If he does consume a lot of something, such as vanilla ice cream, for example, call your veterinarian. You may simply need to watch your dog for a while to make sure he is all right.
We really can’t say how often a dog can have vanilla since it very much depends on what kind of food the vanilla is used in.
If you give your dog a small cup of vanilla ice cream once a week after training, that would not be a problem. On the other hand, if your dog steals a bottle of vanilla extract, even once is too much!
Vanilla is a wonderful spice used in countless foods and other items. In most cases, it shouldn’t harm your dog if he takes a bite of something that contains vanilla. However, we do urge you to be cautious about foods that contain vanilla if they also contain other ingredients that could be dangerous to dogs. Ingredients such as xylitol, raisins, macadamia nuts, and chocolate can all be toxic to dogs. Look at every ingredient before you share any food with your dog.