Can Dogs Have Nutmeg?

Barri J. Morrison, DVM
By Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Nov. 1, 2023
cocker spaniel sitting on a chair in a kitchen looking at the camera

When fall comes around, spice-loaded baking and cooking is common in many households. Among those spices is nutmeg, a fragrant powder made by grinding the seeds from a nutmeg tree. While this spice is a great addition to many foods and desserts, especially around the holidays, can dogs have nutmeg, too?

A small amount of nutmeg is not likely to cause more than an upset stomach, but if your dog ingests a large amount, it can cause poisoning due to a toxin in nutmeg called myristicin. If your dog gets into any nutmeg-containing foods or a nutmeg plant/seeds, seek medical attention with your local veterinarian or emergency room, or call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661.

Is Nutmeg Poisonous to Dogs?

Due to the potential for toxicity, it’s never a good idea to feed your dog anything containing nutmeg. Nutmeg poisoning in dogs can occur with as little as 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg or two to three whole nutmeg seeds. Even if your dog doesn’t eat a toxic dose, stomach upset will likely occur.

Symptoms of Nutmeg Poisoning in Dogs

Thankfully, toxicity from nutmeg ingestion in dogs is not common. Toxicity is more likely to occur if your pet eats plain nutmeg, as foods containing nutmeg often don’t have enough of the spice to produce symptoms of poisoning in dogs. That said, foods containing nutmeg may still cause digestive upset such as vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite.

Clinical signs of nutmeg toxicity can last up to 48 hours and include:

Nutmeg poisoning in dogs can occur with as little as 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg or two to three whole nutmeg seeds.

My Dog Ate Nutmeg. What Do I Do?

It’s always best to be cautious when it comes to your pet’s health. If your dog gets into any nutmeg or nutmeg-containing foods, speak to your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline for guidance.

When you take your dog to the vet, bring the bottle of nutmeg with you, or try to get as much information as possible from the packaging of the nutmeg-containing food. The more information you give your vet, the better guidance they’ll have when creating a treatment plan.

It’s never recommended to induce vomiting at home unless a veterinarian specifically guides you to do so. Often, the induction of vomiting will cause more problems than the toxicity itself.

How Vets Diagnose Nutmeg Poisoning in Dogs

There is no test to determine if a dog has nutmeg toxicity, so your veterinarian will approach it using the process of elimination.

You vet will first perform a complete physical exam, and then run blood work and urine testing to rule out any other medical conditions that could be causing the signs you are seeing. If all test results are normal, it can be assumed the clinical signs in your dog are from the nutmeg they ingested.

Treating Nutmeg Poisoning in Dogs

Nutmeg poisoning is treated with supportive care—meaning treating the symptoms your dog is displaying.

If a large amount of nutmeg was ingested recently, your vet might choose to induce vomiting in your dog or perform a gastric lavage. Gastric lavage is flushing the stomach with saline to remove as much toxin as possible from the digestive system before it is absorbed. Activated charcoal can also be given, which will bind to the toxin in your dog’s digestive system in an effort to prevent more nutmeg toxin from absorbing.

Both induction of vomiting and administration of activated charcoal are usually only done if a toxin was ingested within two hours of your vet seeing your dog for treatment. If your dog is already showing signs of nutmeg toxicity, your vet might choose to hospitalize them to monitor for changes in their mentation (such as hallucinations, disorientation, etc.) or for seizures.

Your dog will receive IV fluids and their blood pressure will be monitored. The vet will also treat any abnormalities that develop. Hospitalization is often for 48 hours, which is typically how long it takes for the toxic effects of nutmeg ingestion to subside.

Can Dogs Die From Eating Nutmeg?

At high doses, nutmeg can be fatal for dogs. The toxic dose of nutmeg is around 1 teaspoon of powder or two to three whole nutmeg seeds. Fatalities are seen at much higher doses and, while those numbers are not readily available due to a lack of research, organ failure and fatalities in humans from nutmeg ingestion have occurred at doses of more than 50 grams, or 20 teaspoons.

Recovery and Management of Nutmeg Poisoning in Dogs

Recovery from nutmeg poisoning should take approximately 48 hours. In that time frame, it’s important to watch your dog closely for development or progression of clinical signs.

If your dog has ingested a toxic dose of nutmeg, consider storing your spices differently or being more cautious about what your dog eats. Child-proofing cabinets is a good idea, as is keeping spices inaccessible to your dog.

What To Give Your Dog Instead of Nutmeg

If you want to give your dog a holiday-inspired snack, make sure all ingredients are pet-friendly.

  • Consider a trip to your local dog bakery or pet store, where the goodies are prepared with your dog’s safety in mind.
  • Freeze cubes of pumpkin puree (NOT canned pumpkin pie filling) as a snack for your pup.
  • Add some dog-friendly spices, such as small amounts of cinnamon or ginger, to homemade dog cookies.

Featured Image: Adobe/sweetlaniko

Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri Morrison was born and raised and currently resides in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She went to University of Florida for her...

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