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Can Dogs Eat Gingerbread? Vet-Reviewed Safety & Health Info

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By Emma Braby

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Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Whether it’s the holidays and you’re surrounded by gingerbread, or you just fancied baking yourself a batch of tasty goods just because (and why the hell not, right?), you might find yourself wondering if Fido can join you on the consumption. But unfortunately, the answer is no, dogs should not eat gingerbread.

Although ginger itself is not toxic to dogs, and in fact, a little can be beneficial for them, the other ingredients often found in gingerbread are toxic to dogs. And just like all fatty human foods, it’s not great for them anyway.

Let’s delve into the details a little more so you know exactly why you can’t feed it to them. Before offering your dog any new treats, particularly human foods, please consult with your vet, as some foods may not be safe for your dog if they are suffering with certain health issues, such as gastrointestinal disease, pancreatitis, diabetes, and many more.

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Is Gingerbread Safe for Dogs?

No, gingerbread is not safe for dogs. And although a little chomp of a gingerbread leg isn’t going to kill them, it will probably upset their stomach for a few days at the very least. And with many other biscuit options out there that are better for them, there is no need to offer your pet any.

gingerbread heart cookies
Photo credit: Håkan Stigson, Pixabay

Ingredients to Avoid

So, why can’t they eat it? Well, most gingerbread recipes contain nutmeg, and nutmeg is toxic to dogs. And although they would have to eat a large quantity for it to be fatal, it doesn’t take a lot to make them very ill.

Nutmeg contains a toxin called myristicin, which is a naturally occurring compound in many herbs and spices. Myristicin is used as an insecticide, and it is also used in drugs because of its psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects. All in all, nutmeg is a big nope for Fido.

Some gingerbread recipes also contain cinnamon, which can also be toxic to dogs depending on the amount and formulation.

And other gingerbread recipes also include star anise, which can also be harmful in large amounts. Star anise is also known to make dogs hyper, which can lead to increased playfulness but also some undesirable behaviors.

Gingerbread recipes almost always contain sugar and fats. As most of us dog owners know, sugar and fats are also not very good for our pooches. Not only is their stomach not designed to break it down easily, but it can make them pile on the pounds very quickly.

If it isn’t easy to break down and they are not accustomed to eating such foods, they may develop digestive issues and discomfort. Fatty and sugary ingredients can easily lead to obesity and many serious health-related problems, so unhealthy human snacks should be avoided at all costs.

Obesity can predispose dogs to urinary, respiratory, cardiac, and joint issues, as well as diabetes. If your dog already has diabetes, they need to be on a particular and strict feeding regime, and sugary foods may send them into a spike. 

Some gingerbread recipes also contain xylitol, which is a sugar-free sweetener. Xylitol is more toxic to dogs than chocolate, and they only need to eat a little bit of it for it to be seriously harmful.

Sick dog on pillow
Photo credit: PickPik

Are There Any Health Benefits?

No, there are no benefits to eating gingerbread for Fido. But we did mention that a little bit of ginger is beneficial, so if you’re tempted to feed them gingerbread for the ginger, there are far better ways to get it into their diet.

Ginger is known to be anti-emetic, meaning it soothes nausea and vomiting. It may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects as well and is sometimes used for managing motion sickness or side effects of cancer treatment and chemotherapy in people. Its use for animals is anecdotal and there is limited evidence to say it has actual medicinal benefits. Speak to your vet before adding any ginger to your dog’s food, as it may also lead to gastroenteritis and is not recommended for dogs with blood clotting disorders, gallbladder issues, those awaiting surgeries, or pregnant and nursing animals, as it may have a blood thinning effect.

As with everything in life, if your vet gives you a green light, ginger should be fed to your dog in strict moderation and according to instructions.

a sick beagle dog lying on the floor
Photo Credit: Elena Loza, Shutterstock

What if They Have Accidentally Eaten Gingerbread?

First things first, don’t panic. If your dog has eaten one or two biscuits, they’ll likely get an upset stomach for a day or two, and that’s it. They may need to see your vet as well if their digestive upset continues for more than 24 hrs.

If they have eaten more than a few biscuits, it’s best to get them down to the vet for a checkup. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. With potentially so many dangerous ingredients in it, you need to make sure that they’re not at any risk of nutmeg or xylitol poisoning. If the gingerbread contained any of these toxic ingredients, including chocolate, your dog will need to get urgent treatment with a vet.

corgi dog carried by vet
Image Credit: Juice Flair, Shutterstock
Signs of nutmeg poisoning include:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Disorientation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors
  • High body temperature

Signs of xylitol poisoning include:
  • Low blood sugar
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Lack of coordination
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Liver damage

If you notice any of the above signs or an abnormal change in your dog’s behavior after eating gingerbread, get them straight down to the vet. When it comes to ingestion of potentially toxic substances, it’s imperative to treat the dog as soon as possible and while the ingredients are still in the stomach. This way, your vet can safely induce emesis and decontaminate the dog’s stomach. Generally, this should be done within 2-4 hours of eating it for most toxic substances. Afterward, treatment options may be more limited and symptomatic.

Gingerbread cookies
Image credit: skeeze, Pixabay

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The Wrap Up

So, now you know that Fido cannot partake in your festive gingerbread feast, no matter how much they give you their best puppy dog eyes. Thankfully, nutmeg has a strong odor that tends to put many dogs off, but it’s still best not to leave it around to test it.

It isn’t the ginger that is bad for them, but instead, many of the other ingredients are. There are much safer ways to feed them ginger than in the form of gingerbread, and only if your vet recommends it or approves it. Always consult with them before making any changes in your dog’s diet or adding new ingredients that may be harmful.

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Featured Image Credit: asgardkrakow, Pixabay

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