Nutmeg is a favorite spice for baking seasonal cookies and cakes. The rich, nutty fragrance attracts more than just family and friends to the kitchen: it can catch the attention of your dog, too. But, if he’s begging for a bite of your freshly baked treats, can you give it to him? With so many foods that aren’t safe for dogs—like chocolate, table salt, and onion powder, among others—where does nutmeg fit in? “Nutmeg is toxic to pets due to a compound in the nutmeg called Myristicin,” says Stephanie Liff, DVM and partner at Brooklyn Cares Veterinary Hospital in New York. The answer is very simple: no, nutmeg is not safe for dogs.
Here’s everything you should know when it comes to your dog and nutmeg:
When to worry:
If your pet happens to find his way into the pantry and starts gnawing through the shaker, you may have a problem. “At high doses, you can see disorientation, hallucinations, increased heart rate and blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain, and even seizures,” explains Liff. While it is unlikely that your dog would ingest enough to cause these kinds of reactions, if s/he does, “The signs can last about 48 hours.” Also, remember to keep in mind your pet’s size in relation to how much nutmeg he ate. If he’s on the larger side and only had a bite of pie, he won’t be at the same risk as, say, a Chihuahua that gobbled down three slices.
“At high doses, you can see disorientation, hallucinations, increased heart rate and blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain, and even seizures.”
When not to worry:
“At a low dose, as would likely be contained in food a human might share with a pet, you may see no side effects, even on the mild side, like vomiting or diarrhea.” So if he does happen to sneak a cookie off your counter, he should be okay. Keep an eye out and see if your dog experiences any of the symptoms for the next two days, just to be sure he is fine.
What to do:
To avoid allowing your dog the opportunity to get into the nutmeg shaker or from digging into a batch of baked goods, keep cabinets closed and the nutmeg out of reach. Also, remember to let guests know not to share a bite with your dog, they may not realize the friendly gesture may come with harsh side effects.
If your pet does ingest nutmeg, and you believe he ate enough of it to cause symptoms don’t hesitate to call Animal Poison Control: (888) 426-4435. You should also call your vet or bring your dog to an emergency clinic right away if you notice any of the symptoms.
In general, and if you can help it, it’s a better idea to stick to dog treats and skip the table scraps, as the risks may not be worth the reward. “I’d recommend people do not feed their pets nutmeg,” says Liff.
Caitlin Ultimo is a writer and editor who has been published on PetMD. Her work specializes in pet, family and beauty writing.