Nutmeg and Cinnamon Toxicity

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Pet Poison Helpline has received several questions lately from visitors on whether or not Nutmeg and Cinnamon are toxic to pets.  With the holidays just around the corner, and lots of tasty baked goods to bake, Pet Poison Helpline veterinarians have come together to set the record straight on whether or not Nutmeg and Cinnamon are toxic to pets.

Nutmeg

By: Charlotte Flint, DVM
Staff Veterinarian at Pet Poison Helpline

Nutmeg  is a spice used to flavor various sweet and savory dishes and is made from the hard seed of Myristica fragrans, a tropical evergreen.  It is occasionally used as a drug of abuse, though its unpleasant side effects and strong flavor tend to dissuade users.

Nutmeg contains a toxin called myristicin.  The small amount of nutmeg used in recipes is very unlikely to cause serious toxicity, though mild stomach upset could occur if a small amount is ingested.  If a very large amount of nutmeg is ingested, myristicin toxicity can cause symptoms including hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain, and possibly seizures.  Symptoms can last up to 48 hours.  A pet would need to ingest a very large amount of nutmeg, and this is very unlikely to occur if a dog or cat ingests food with nutmeg in it.

Cinnamon

By: Catherine Angle, DVM
Staff Veterinarian at Pet Poison Helpline

There have been a couple of questions submitted regarding the safety of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Cinnamon and nutmeg ingestions are a great example of how what is natural is not always safe and that the dose makes the toxin.

Cinnamon is generally well tolerated and may even have some effects that improve health in people.  Cinnamon is commonly used as an antioxidant and may lower blood sugar.  It is available in multiple supplements designed for diabetics and humans with other chronic health concerns.

The most commonly reported negative effect from exposure to cinnamon and cinnamon oils is irritation and sensitization.  Cinnamon is a potent antigen and individuals who regularly have their skin exposed can develop a sensitivity that leads to redness, irritation or even blisters at the exposure site which is commonly seen on their lips and hands.  This is not as commonly reported on the lips of pets (all that soft fur protects them) but can occur inside their mouths. On a human toxicology note: people participating in a “cinnamon challenge” where an individual consumes 1 tablespoon of cinnamon in less then 60 seconds people will often experience difficulty breathing, pain, bloody nose, irritation, bronchospasm and light headedness.

Pets can be exposed to cinnamon by; chewing on the tree (which is sometimes kept as an indoor ornamental), being fed human food seasoned with the spice, cinnamon sticks left in cider cups, eating the spice directly or consuming the essential oil being used for cooking or aromatherapy.  It takes a larger amount of ingested cinnamon powder to cause problems in our pets (greater then 1 teaspoon of powder for most pets) but only a small amount of the essential oil.  Large overdoses of the powder or exposure to the essential oil can lead to low blood sugar, liver disease, vomiting, diarrhea and changes in heart rate.  Some dogs who are ingesting the powdered spice directly can inhale the spice.  This is very irritating to the lungs and can cause coughing, choking, difficulty breathing and bronchospasm.

If you believe your pet has consumed a large amount of cinnamon, inhaled cinnamon powder or had access to the essential oil, please call your local veterinarian or call us here at Pet Poison Helpline to determine if care is needed.


Sources:
Poisoning & Drug Overdose 5th edition edited by Kent R. Olson
Micromedex

Published on November 27, 2013
Categorized under: Blog,Pet Safety Tips