Nutmeg may have many benefits in a person's diet. Amongst other things, it is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and it may even help boost your libido! It is a common staple present in pantries all across America and is included in a variety of spice blends, such as pumpkin pie spice and garam masala.
Nutmeg releases a warm and sweet aroma that is perfect for cakes, pies, and holiday drinks. Its smell can attract more than just family and friends to the kitchen; it can catch the attention of your dog too. But is nutmeg safe for your dog to consume?
Why You Shouldn't Feed Nutmeg to Your Dog
Nutmeg contains a toxin called myristicin, found in the oil of the seed, which can be very dangerous for dogs, especially if ingested in large amounts.
Although a small amount of nutmeg used in recipes is unlikely to cause serious toxicity, it can cause stomach upset and it is best to completely avoid this ingredient when feeding your dog.
Potential Health Concerns of Nutmeg Ingestion in Dogs
The severity of nutmeg toxicity varies greatly depending on the type and amount of nutmeg ingested and the size of the pet.
Nutmeg is a common spice used in baked goods and if your dog eats a single cookie or a bite of a pie that contains nutmeg, they should be OK since the amount ingested will usually be minimal. Hopefully, the worst they will experience would be an upset stomach. Regardless, baked goods should be kept out of reach of your dog because they can contain other toxic ingredients such as raisins, chocolate, and xylitol.
If your dog ingests a significant amount of baked goods with nutmeg or nutmeg spice, this can cause severe symptoms and, in extreme cases, it could be fatal.
Nutmeg is a hallucinogenic so consuming a large amount can be a very scary experience for your dog. Hallucinating can appear in your dog in a variety of ways. It may appear as if they are staring off into space, they may appear to be frantically nipping, biting, or barking at the air, and they could exhibit other fearful behaviors.
Signs of Nutmeg Toxicity in Dogs
Symptoms of nutmeg toxicity can vary significantly, can take hours to develop, and can last for days.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Nutmeg?
If your dog accidentally ingests nutmeg, including in baked goods, you should first remove the toxin out of your dog’s reach and try to identify what your dog ate, how much, and the time they did this.
You should then seek professional help, contacting your veterinarian immediately. It may also be helpful to speak with someone focused on toxins in pets. Consider having these numbers on your fridge, or somewhere they are easily accessible:
- ASPCA Poison Control: (888) 426-4435
- Pet Poison Helpline: (800) 213-6680
Even if you don't think your dog ingested a lot of nutmeg or there are no symptoms noted, contacting your vet is still recommended. Depending on the quantity consumed, they may want you to bring your dog in regardless. With potential food toxicity, the sooner the dog gets treatment the better.
Alternative Spices for Doggy-Safe Cookies
If you want to treat your dog to some home-baked cookies, there are lots of other doggy-safe herbs and spices that can be added instead of nutmeg. Even with these options, though, it is still best to keep the quantities small. Too much of a concentrated or new ingredient always runs the risk of upsetting a dog's tummy.
So, in short, if your dog ingests a small amount of nutmeg, it is unlikely to cause any major problems, other than, perhaps, an upset tummy. It is best, however, to avoid feeding this ingredient knowingly altogether to be on the safe side.
It's also good practice to keep spices out of your dog's reach, don't leave food unattended, and keep your counters clear.
If your dog accidentally consumes a large amount of nutmeg, make sure you seek veterinary advice immediately.
Tajuddin, et al. An experimental study of sexual function improving effect of myristica fragrans houtt. (nutmeg). BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2005;5(1): 16. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-16
Hallström, H. and Thuvander, A. Toxicological evaluation of myristicin. Natural Toxins. 1997;5(5):186–92. doi:10.1002/nt.3
Smalheiser, Neil R. A neglected link between the psychoactive effects of dietary ingredients and consciousness-altering drugs. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2019;10:591. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00591
Rahman N.A.A. et al. Toxicity of nutmeg (myristicin): A review. International Journal on Advanced Science Engineering Information Technology. 2015;5(3):212-215. doi:10.18517/ijaseit.5.3.518