Can Dogs Eat Gingerbread? Here’s Why They Can’t

Gingerbread is a popular treat we all come to love especially during the holidays. The combination of rich sweetness and spicy flavor is probably the reason why we couldn’t get enough of it the same way Hansel and Gretel got bewitched into entering the gingerbread house. But is it okay for us to let our beloved pooches partake of this delectable treat?

No, dogs cannot eat gingerbread. This is because many gingerbread recipes contain spices, especially nutmeg which is a ground spice containing an active ingredient called myristicin. When overconsumed, the ingredient’s toxicity to dogs can cause convulsions, nausea, palpitations, and dehydration.

Popular in Europe since the Middle Ages, gingerbreads are either served as a cake bread, a cookie formed as a gingerbread man, or as an elaborate gingerbread house. It is made from ingredients mostly safe for our dogs to consume in moderate amounts, except for the aforementioned nutmeg.

In this article, we will tackle the health risks and the early signs of poisoning regarding the consumption of gingerbread to our dogs, as well as, the healthier alternative choices we could give them as treats.

Is It Safe For Dogs To Eat Gingerbread?

While a small amount of gingerbread may not bring immediate harm, regularly giving dogs gingerbread as treats can cause them to have stomach upsets or pancreatitis.

Gingerbread is a confection usually made with preserved or fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, star anise, brown sugar, molasses, honey, or corn syrup.

Let us examine in detail how each of these ingredients could affect our dog’s health.


What makes gingerbread so irresistible for us is the sugar content and its effect is the same to humans as to our pooches. As we all know, consuming too much of this ingredient will increase the glucose level in the blood resulting in weight gain, tooth cavities, and diabetes.

Some recipes call for corn syrup to sweeten the cake but it is no better than regular white or brown sugar since corn syrup also has a high glycemic index.


Butter is another main ingredient of this confection, and is mostly made of saturated fats. It is not toxic to dogs but too much consumption can also lead to obesity and pancreatitis.

All-Purpose Flour

Wheat flour is usually used for gingerbread and for some dogs it can trigger some allergies especially if they are gluten intolerant. A better alternative is a gingerbread that has whole wheat flour which contains more protein, fiber, and antioxidants.


This being a gingerbread, ginger is naturally one of the main ingredients. Ginger provides a slew of health benefits like anti-inflammation and anti-cancer properties due to a compound called gingerol.

The safe amount of ginger is based on the size of your pooch, which is roughly between ¼ and ¾ teaspoon of fresh ginger.


One ingredient you should avoid giving your pooch is nutmeg, a seed or ground spice type. This spice is usually added to gingerbread to add a layer of sweetness and it blends well with cinnamon.

The aromatic compound present in this spice is myristicin that is considered toxic to animals, and a large intake of this compound can cause hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, and seizures.


Cinnamon is a safe spice for dogs and is considered non-toxic. It is known to increase their energy and boost brain function. It also has anti-fungal properties that protect it from yeast infections.

When using cinnamon, it is recommended to use the Ceylon variety rather than the Cassia variety since the former contains less coumarin that promotes blood thinning.

Other Spices

Allspice and cloves are also two spices found in gingerbread. While they are used sparingly on gingerbread, they both contain the compound eugenol that is found to cause liver toxicity in cats.

Other ingredients found in some gingerbread recipes are star anise that is known to make dogs hyper.

What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Gingerbread?

First thing to do is to observe and monitor your dog closely. Note down its change in behavior, pooping frequency, stool appearance and if it has vomited. All these notes will point to the severity of nutmeg poisoning and how your dog is affected by it.

Nutmeg is the number one reason why your dog can’t eat gingerbread. The toxin, myristicin, would not likely cause serious poisoning if only small amounts were ingested, say, a small bite or two of gingerbread. This will only cause a mild stomach upset.

Apart from the quantity consumed, the size, health, and age of your dog also determine the level of tolerance your dog can handle. If you have, let’s say, a Shih Tzu, and it accidentally ate a whole bag of gingerbread cookies, you should quickly look for signs that it may have an adverse reaction to the cookie.

But, if you have a large doberman that ingested a similar amount of gingerbread, its toxic reaction could probably only result in mild symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea.

The Signs Of Nutmeg Poisoning

It is important to learn about the possible effects of nutmeg on your dog so you could act quickly to minimize the damage. Give your dog plenty of water if you think it is showing signs of poisoning to flush out the toxins.

If any of the following symptoms appear, it is best to visit your veterinarian immediately. Symptoms can last up to 48 hours if large amounts were ingested.

  • Disorientation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dry mouth
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Eating Foods With Nutmeg?

The best way to prevent any accidental consumption of foods laden with ingredients toxic to dogs, such as gingerbread, chocolates, and fruits like strawberries or grapes, is to keep these foods in cabinets and out of the dogs’ reach.

It is also best to remind children and unsuspecting house guests to not share their food with your pooches without first checking with you. A lot of accidents happen when they are not aware that their friendly gesture may be causing harm to your pooch.

And of course, it is always better to just give your pooch dog treats that are made especially for dogs. This way, no amount of worries would trouble you later on.

What Are Some Of The Healthy Alternatives For Gingerbread?

If you want to give your dog that gingerbread treat, there are recipes you can find online to make your own homemade gingerbread cookie. A lot of the recipes call for healthy ingredients that would not harm your pooch like whole wheat flour or oat flour.

Plus, these recipes forgo any use of the dreaded nutmeg. Some also reduce or even leave out entirely the use of sugars to better protect your pooch from obesity and diabetes.

Can Dogs Eat Ginger Snaps?

It is OK to give your dog an occasional ginger snap treat. Giving them treats with a ginger flavor is perfectly fine since ginger is actually beneficial to them in small amounts.

It aids in digestion and prevents nausea. But, as with many commercially available cookies in the market, it contains a fair amount of sugars, fats, and salt. So, keep it to a minimum.

Is It OK To Give Chocolate-Flavored Gingerbread To My Dog?

No, it is not okay for your dog to be fed chocolate-flavored gingerbread. Chocolate is one of the most toxic foods to feed your dog and can be life-threatening.

Chocolate also contains the compound theobromine that can cause seizures, muscle spasms, vomiting, and excessive urination. It has been reported that it takes about 2.25 oz or ¼ cup of baking chocolate to kill a 22-pound dog.

Are Sugar-Free Gingerbread Cookies Safe For Dogs?

No, gingerbread cookies are not safe. Many sugar-free cookies in the market contain the substance xylitol to substitute for sugar. Xylitol poisoning symptoms include a sudden sugar level drop, decreased activity, staggered walking, incoordination, liver failure, and seizures.

Xylitol is also found in some peanut butter products, candies, and other baked goodies. Always check the labels just to make sure.

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