Can Dogs Eat Cinnamon? What to Know Before Dusting Your Dog's Snacks in This Scrumptious Spice
It's a staple on cinnamon toast, an extra kick in hundreds of recipes and hot drinks, and the necessary ingredient for one of the dumbest food "challenges" to hit the internet a few years ago (a raw spoonful, and no, just don't do it).
People love cinnamon in all its flavorful forms, but what about for dogs? Will cinnamon hurt dogs who sneak some off the counter, lick a wayward plate, or find a crunchy chunk of raw cinnamon stick on the floor? We checked with two veterinarians to find out if cinnamon is good or bad for curious dogs who sneak a bite.
Can Dogs Eat Cinnamon Safely?
Cinnamon is not a toxin and typical amounts shouldn't lead to problems for dogs who ingest some, says Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, a veterinarian toxicologist who works with Pet Poison Helpline.
"When it's mixed with food products, it isn't enough to be problematic," Schmid says. Though as with anything spicy, fattening, or otherwise offbeat compared to the typical dog food, there's always a risk of stomach upset in dogs.
"And dogs may sneeze or snort if they accidentally inhale cinnamon powder from sniffing," she says. You would, too.
Only if dogs inhaled a lot of cinnamon powder could there be any risk of respiratory irritation, according to Schmid.
Bad reactions to cinnamon powder made a food challenge particularly dangerous a few years ago online. Kids and adults filmed themselves trying to eat one tablespoon of the spice. At the time, Pet Poison Helpline warned curious pet parents to leave dogs out of the experiment and warned people that consuming that much cinnamon in less than a minute could lead to "difficulty breathing, pain, bloody nose, irritation, bronchospasm, and light-headedness." Bad for pets, bad for people.
Is Cinnamon Good For Dogs? The Health Benefits of Cinnamon
A little bit of cinnamon isn't toxic to dogs, but does it have any nutritional or medical benefits?
Board-certified veterinary nutritionist Lisa Weeth, DVM, DACVN, with Metropolitan Animal Specialty Hospital in Los Angeles, Calif., says we just don't know about whether dogs have anything to gain from eating this spice.
"Cinnamon is commonly used as an antioxidant in people and may lower blood sugar," Weeth says. "It's available in multiple supplements designed for people with diabetes and other chronic health concerns."
But she says since "no one has looked at [health benefits' in dogs," it's a trickier question to answer. But it's not uncommon for cinnamon to show up as a flavoring in a variety of dog treats, and is not necessarily harmful for dogs when consumed in small amounts.
Can Dogs Eat Cinnamon in Other Foods?
Cinnamon seldom sits by itself. It's usually included in baked goods (like pumpkin pie), tasty (and often sugary) drinks and plenty of cinnamon- and pumpkin-spice-flavored items at the grocery store. (Yes, dogs can get cinnamon and pumpkin spice items in the pet food aisle, too.)
A nibble of many cinnamon-flavored food items is likely not a problem. Cinnamon rolls, for instance, aren't particularly poisonous, but they do include a lot of sugar and fat, Schmid says, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Schmid says a bigger concern for pups who eat cereal would be raisins, which are toxic to dogs—but since Cinnamon Toast Crunch doesn't have any of those little dried grapes, it's not an issue.
When considering items with cinnamon, watch out for other particularly dangerous ingredients that might hitch a ride (chocolate, the sugar substitute xylitol and even macadamia nuts) and keep portions very small. Like their pet parents, cats and dogs today are struggling with obesity and don't need the extra calories.
"To prevent weight gain, don't feed more than 10 percent of your dog's daily calories as food or treats outside of meals," Weeth recommends.
How Much Cinnamon Can Dogs Eat?
Cinnamon in normal quantities is no big deal, Schmid says.
"If a dog ingested a cinnamon stick, the issue would likely only be stomach upset," she explains. "A large enough amount, say one tablespoon or more, could lead to vomiting, diarrhea, low blood sugar, heart rate changes, or liver toxicity."
The same could go for a dog who accidentally drank or inhaled a bunch of cinnamon essential oil, a concentrated form that can cause similar problems. It's safer to keep dogs and other pets well away from any essential oils and essential oil diffusers to be on the safe side.
So, only if your dog ingested a bunch of raw cinnamon in powder or oil would you likely see a problem, Schmid says: "And it would still be highly unlikely for anything more than gastrointestinal upset."
How much cinnamon are you eating? Chances are, the small amount of cinnamon used for flavoring is fine, but not necessarily beneficial or recommended, for your dog.
Can Dogs Have Nutmeg?
Cinnamon and nutmeg both show up as ingredients in pumpkin spice. In small quantities, neither spice is a problem, Schmid says. However, in larger quantities, nutmeg can cause signs of poisoning in dogs, including vomiting, seizures, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure.
"Nutmeg can have hallucinogenic effects depending on the amount ingested," she says. Luckily, it tastes bad by itself and most pets don't eat it, even if they go sniffing around a nutmeg container in the kitchen or pantry.
Veterinary nutritionist Weeth says most human foods are OK to feed in moderation, unless there are toxic items like raisins and chocolate or the dog has underlying medical conditions like diabetes or heart problems.
If you're ever worried your dog has eaten a lot of something you're not sure about, it's always best to call your veterinarian or a service like Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680 to make sure you're not seeing signs of poisoning.