Gingerbread and pets: sugar and spice and all things nice?
Spicy foods are widely enjoyed by many people but we are often asked if they are harmful to pets. In this article we use gingerbread, which contains the frequently used spices cinnamon and nutmeg, as an example of food that may cause problems for cats and dogs.
Cinnamon powder, sticks and oils are used in multiple ways during the festive season. In people, cinnamon is commonly used to lower blood sugar and as an antioxidant. However, cinnamon may cause problems for our pets. Contact can lead to irritation and sensitisation at the affected site, for example, inside the mouth. Fur generally protects the skin. The essential oil can cause toxicity, even if only a small amount is consumed. Signs to look for include: weakness due to low blood sugar, vomiting, diarrhoea, and changes in heart rate. If inhaled, the powder can cause choking and coughing, breathing difficulties and asthma-like signs.
This spice is also found in many seasonal dishes. It is made from the seed of Myristica fragrans, a tropical evergreen plant indigenous to Indonesia. Nutmeg contains the toxin, myristicin. The good news is that the small amount of nutmeg typically used in recipes is unlikely to cause toxicity. However, if it is consumed, mild intestinal upset may be seen. If large amounts are consumed hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain and seizures are possible. These signs can last for 48 hours.
When to see your physical veterinarian
- Has your pet eaten, or come into contact with, cinnamon or nutmeg, or any other potentially toxic food items? If yes, please seek veterinary advice. Contact your own veterinarian to make an emergency appointment.
- Visit TVM UK for more information on common poisons that can affect your pet.
TVM UK have developed an easy to remember acronym S.P.E.E.D to help owners if they think that their dog has eaten something poisonous. Your vet only has a short, limited time frame to try and minimise the absorption of poisons so an immediate appointment is essential and potentially life-saving.
S - Stop access to any poison. It may seem obvious but stop your dog eating or licking any more of the substance.
P - Phone the vet. Keep your vet’s phone number and their emergency (out of hours) number handy in case you ever need them.
E - Emergency appointment. You cannot ‘wait and see’ with poisons as many do not affect your pet straight away, some can take several days to show symptoms, all the while doing damage to the internal organs whilst showing no sign on the outside. Getting your dog seen immediately gives you the best chance to get effective treatment for your dog.
E - Evidence. Knowing what the potential poison is will really help your vet make a rapid diagnosis and create the best treatment protocol for a successful recovery. If you have a label of the substance then take it with you to the clinic. If you don’t have a label but have access to the substance then bring a sample for testing (only if it is safe to do so and you are not putting yourself or anyone else in danger). If you don’t have a label or a sample but your dog has been sick, then bring a sample of this with you (if safe to do so) as the ingredient may be present in the vomit. If you don’t have access to any of these then don’t worry as your pet’s blood can be tested via certain laboratories.
D - Don’t delay. You cannot afford to wait, act straight away!
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