Can Dogs and Cats Eat Gingerbread Cookies?
During the holidays, many of us enjoy baking to get into the spirit. Gingerbread cookies are a classic for Christmas, as well as gingerbread houses. Or maybe you’re not the baking type, and you bought a box of cookies and your pet got into it. Is this safe? The short answer is that giving your pet a small piece of a gingerbread cookie may not cause any problems, but in large amounts, they can make your pet sick. In this article, we’ll discuss common ingredients in gingerbread cookies and safer alternatives to make for your dog or cat!
It’s important to remember that even if a baked good has no ingredients in it that are toxic to cats and dogs, they can still cause gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis. If you have special dietary concerns and have baked or purchased sugar-free gingerbread cookies, they may contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that is very toxic to dogs even in smaller amounts.
Common Gingerbread Cookie Ingredients:
- Butter – not toxic, but too much can cause gastrointestinal upset and even lead to pancreatitis
- Flour – not toxic but white is not as healthy as whole wheat
- Baking soda – only toxic if large amounts are consumed
- Brown or white sugar – not toxic, but too much over time can cause weight gain and even lead to diabetes
- Molasses – high in sugar (see above)
- Egg – if your pet eats the raw batter, there is a risk of Salmonella poisoning
- Pure or artificial vanilla extract – 35% alcohol content, which is toxic to cats and dogs, but you can purchase alcohol-free vanilla extract from many health food stores
- Spices – none of these are toxic in small amounts, but large amounts or concentrated oils can be toxic!
- Ground ginger – large amounts can cause gastrointestinal upset and lethargy
- Cinnamon – large amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, irritation of the mouth and lungs (inhaling accidentally when consuming), low blood sugar, heart arrhythmias
- Allspice – contains the compound eugenol which can cause liver toxicity in cats
- Cloves – contains eugenol (see above)
- Nutmeg (not typically in gingerbread cookies but everyone’s recipes are different!) – a toxin called myristicin in large amounts can cause hallucinations, disorientation, tachycardia (increased heart rate), hypertension (high blood pressure), dry mouth, abdominal pain, seizures
- Salt – too much salt can cause increased thirst, an excessive amount can cause salt toxicity
- Icing/Royal Icing – sugar, see above
- Meringue powder (contains eggs) or raw egg whites
- Confectioners’ sugar
If you’re sad that your furry friend can’t enjoy the holidays with a gingerbread treat, consider these options: Leave out the vanilla extract or use an alcohol-free version. Leave off the icing. Use whole wheat flour. Forget the sugar and just use a little molasses and peanut butter (make sure your peanut butter does not contain xylitol). Don’t add salt. Leave out the clove and allspice.
Pet Safe Gingerbread Cookie Recipe:
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 1 egg
- 1/3 chunky peanut butter (without xylitol)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp ginger
Preheat oven to 320 F, whisk molasses, egg, and peanut butter together. Then add flour, cinnamon, and ginger, and knead the dough until stiff. Roll out dough to 0.5 cm thick, use cookie cutters to make your gingerbread men (or women!). Bake for 15 minutes, allow to cool for 5 minutes before placing on a rack, then allow to cool completely before giving to your pet. Do not give your pet an entire tray of cookies! One as a treat, once in a while (just like a dog biscuit), will still make them happy! You can also freeze the dough for later use.
Have more questions about holiday pet safety?
Schedule a video consult to chat with one of our vets.