Gingerbread is one of those seasonal foods that seems to magically appear as Christmas approaches. You can actually buy kits in stores with pre-made gingerbread to put together gingerbread houses, if you are baking-challenged. Gingerbread cookies, gingerbread men, and other baked goods, often festively decorated, are holiday favorites. With so much gingerbread around, your dog might be tempted to help himself to a piece. Is gingerbread safe for pets? The answer might surprise you.
No one is going to claim that gingerbread cookies, cakes, and the like are healthy foods but they are not as bad as some of the confections that are pure sugar.
One gingerbread cookie (37 grams) contains 134 calories with 29 calories from fat. They have 3.3 grams of fat or 5 percent fat. They have 5 percent cholesterol, 103 mg of sodium (4 percent), 137 mg of potassium (4 percent), 24 grams of carbohydrates (8 percent), 0.6 grams of dietary fiber (2 percent), 12 grams of sugar, and 1.9 grams of protein. They also contain 2 percent vitamin A, 4 percent calcium, and 7 percent iron.
Typical ingredients for a gingerbread cookie:
|15.62 grams||all purpose flour||57|
|0.29 gram||baking powder||0|
|0.14 gram||baking soda||0|
|0.22 gram||ground ginger||1|
|0.19 gram||ground cinnamon||0|
|0.02 gram||ground clove||0|
|3.55 grams||unsalted butter||25|
|6.9 grams||dark brown sugar||26|
|0.08 gram||lemon zest||0|
This recipe doesn’t happen to include nutmeg but some recipes do use the spice. Nutmeg is the reason why many people feel that gingerbread is not safe for dogs, although the sugar isn’t especially healthy either.
Ginger-type cookies (gingerbread, gingersnaps, etc.) do contain a lot of sugar and fat (from the butter) but they also contain some essential nutrients which are beneficial. They boost the body’s iron and manganese intakes. Iron is necessary for energy production and it supports tissue health, helping red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues. Manganese helps with wound healing and supports the metabolism.
These cookies also provide niacin and folate. Niacin promotes healthy cell development, controls gene activity, and aids cellular communcation. Folate helps with red blood cell production and healthy cell growth.
Gingersnaps are also helpful for dogs (and pregnant women) with an upset stomach, especially dogs that are carsick. Ginger, in general, appears to help overcome nausea – claims backed up by a review of research published in the March 2014 issue of Nutrition Journal.
Is Gingerbread Safe for Pets?
Dogs should not be given gingerbread that contains nutmeg. Nutmeg is a toxin for dogs because it contains the compound Myristicin. Although most cakes and cookie recipes only call for a small amount of nutmeg and your dog would have to eat quite a bit of the spice to feel its effects, it’s best to simply avoid any gingerbread cookies, cakes, or other desserts that contain it.
Nutmeg is considered to be harmless to cats in small amounts but it can lead to problems if a cat consumes a lot of the spice. It’s best to avoid giving a cat gingerbread cakes, cookies, or other foods unless you know they do not contain nutmeg.
Fortunately, if you are making gingerbread cookies or your own gingerbread house from scratch, you can control the recipe. Simply leave out the nutmeg.
We also found this nice dog and horse-safe gingerbread cookie recipe online. It has fewer ingredients than many gingerbread recipes for people and all of them are safe for pets (and horses).
It’s hard to imagine sugar-free gingerbread considering that it relies on brown sugar and molasses to make the gingerbread dark but there are some recipes (especially keto and paleo diets) that are more or less sugar-free. These recipes call for the use of the dreaded XYLITOL. You absolutely, positively should not give your dog anything containing xylitol because it is poisonous to dogs. If a cookie or cake claims to be sugar-free, check the label. It likely contains xylitol. In fact, you should get in the habit of always checking labels just to make sure the foods you buy don’t contain xylitol. If your dog eats anything that contains xylitol, take him to the veterinarian immediately. It could save his life.
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar, such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse and seizures.
If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately. Because hypoglycemia and other serious adverse effects may not occur in some cases for up to 12 to 24 hours, your dog may need to be hospitalized for medical monitoring.
Cats do not appear to be affected by xylitol.
What If Your Dog Eats Gingerbread?
Since regular gingerbread (cookies, cake, houses) contain a lot of brown sugar, molasses, and butter, if your dog eats some, he could experience some digestive problems. Depending on how much of the gingerbread he eats, he could vomit or have diarrhea. If his stomach problems last for more than 24 hours, see your veterinarian.
If your dog eats gingerbread that contains nutmeg and you are worried about the nutmeg as a toxin, watch for the following symptoms:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Possible seizures
One gingerbread cookie containing nutmeg is not likely to affect your dog. It usually takes a large amount of nutmeg to affect a dog. But, if you are worried or if you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
How Much Gingerbread Can You Give Your Dog?
If you have gingerbread that does not contain nutmeg, keep in mind that one gingerbread cookie has 134 calories. Gingerbread is quite fattening because of the butter used in the recipe. It also contains a lot of sugar and molasses. One gingerbread cookie would be plenty for most dogs.
If your dog is diabetic, gingerbread and other human foods that contain lots of sugar are a bad idea. Dogs that are overweight or obese should also avoid eating human treats that are so high in calories.
If your dog has any specific health conditions or if you have questions, it’s always best to ask your veterinarian before giving your dog a treat such as gingerbread.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Gingerbread?
Since gingerbread is high in calories and sugar, you could let your dog have one or two cookies per week. It’s better to give your dog healthy treats that are made for dogs.
If your gingerbread contains nutmeg, it’s generally best not to share it with your dog. However, you can make gingerbread without using nutmeg. Surprisingly, gingerbread-type cookies and treats, such as gingersnaps, have some nutritional benefits, especially for dogs that are prone to getting car sick. If you share some safe gingerbread with your dog, remember that these cookies and cakes are high in calories and contain lots of sugar and fat. Only let your dog have a little occasionally.