Can Your Dog Eat Spices? Which Ones?

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Spices may be a much-loved part of our own diet, but when it comes to feeding Fido, an “anything goes” approach is something to be avoided. Even simple, everyday spices like salt and pepper can cause issues in unregulated doses, while things like cocoa powder, nutmeg and mace can be potentially lethal, even in small quantities. If you want to add a bit of pep to your dog’s diet, choose your spice wisely and always consult a veterinarian beforehand if your dog is on medication, pregnant, or lactating. If your pet is otherwise healthy, the following spices offer a host of health-giving, tasty properties:

  • Alfalfa – Rich in vitamins A, B1, B12, C, D, E, and K, and packed with minerals like calcium, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and zinc, alfalfa is often recommended by holistic animal experts for its nutritive and diuretic properties.
  • Anise Seed – Thanks to its rich vitamin and mineral profile, anise seed is widely used for its anti-oxidant, health-promoting qualities.
  • Caraway Seeds – Packed with fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, and immune-boosting anti-oxidants, caraway seeds make a tasty, healthy addition to your pet’s diet. According to some experts, these tiny seeds are even capable of removing harmful toxins from the body, with some interesting possibilities for cancer prevention.
  • Cinnamon – Anti-inflammatory and with enough anti-oxidants to clear up any nasty aflatoxins from your pet’s food, cinnamon is an excellent spice to add to your arsenal. As an added advantage, it has the same sweetening effect on your dog’s breath as it has on their food: add a little ground cinnamon to their bowls and wave goodbye to smelly kisses once and for all.
  • Ginger – If you’re planning on a long car journey with your pooch, don’t set off without some ginger in your bag. Its stomach-soothing properties can help eliminate motion sickness, making travel a much easier experience for all concerned. Other than helping nausea, ginger can also boost circulation and enhance nutrient absorption.
  • Cayenne Pepper – Although you’ll need to be very moderate with the quantities you use, cayenne pepper carries a number of useful health benefits. Studies have shown peppers can have a positive impact on blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, and can help reduce the occurrence of arthritis and stomach ulcers. If you choose to add cayenne to your pet’s diet, keep quantities small to avoid the risk of gastrointestinal irritation.
  • Cilantro (Coriander) -If your dog has a sluggish digestion, cilantro can help pep up their appetite and relieve gas and indigestion.
  • Fennel Seeds – Fennel seeds are known primarily for their positive effects on the digestion: add a few to your pet’s bowl for a reduction in flatulence, a cleansed liver, a calmer digestive tract, and a normalized appetite.
  • Turmeric – Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is known as a potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent. Add up to a quarter of a teaspoon per day for every 10 pounds of weight for a great, cancer-fighting addition to your pet’s routine.

Now we know what spices you can feed your pet, what spices should you avoid?

  • Cocoa – Most pet owners are aware of the dangers of chocolate. As you’d expect, cocoa should also be on the banned list. The big nasty in both cocoa and chocolate is theobromine, a substance that can have a devastating effect on a dog’s well-being, and in large enough quantities, even result in death.
  • Ma Huang (Ephedra) –  As VCA Hospitals notes, Ephedra carries some useful properties and has traditionally been used as a way of relieving congestion, dilating airways, and even treating lameness. However, as it comes with a range of possible side effects (including elevated blood pressure, elevated heart rate, restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety), it should only ever be used under direct veterinary supervision (with some animal expects even saying it’s best avoided entirely).
  • Garlic – While some pet owners report positive effects from feeding small quantities of garlic to their dogs, most experts recommend avoiding it entirely. As Cuteness notes, spices like garlic, onions, and chives are packed with sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage red blood cells and ultimately result in anemia.
  • Paprika – While paprika adds a flavorsome punch to human food, it’s best avoided in your pet’s diet. As well as having unpleasant effects on your dog’s tummy (including gastrointestinal irritation and diarrhea), it can also result in irritation if it comes into contact with the skin or eyes.
  • Salt – A little sprinkling of salt now and again is unlikely to do your pet much harm. However, be careful about going overboard. As well as causing excessive thirst, it can also result in lethargy, depression, or even seizures in large enough doses.
  • Nutmeg – Some spices can be used in very moderate amounts with no ill effect. Some spices, on the other hand, should be avoided at all costs, no matter how small the dose. Nutmeg is one such example: even in tiny quantities, the potential side effects include vomiting, hyperactivity, and, in some cases, death.
  • Mace – Like nutmeg, mace shouldn’t come within a hair’s breadth of your dog’s food bowl. The potential side effects include nausea, vomiting, and in extreme cases, death.
  • Pennyroyal – Even though pennyroyal is sometimes used in products designed for pets, it’s best avoided. Ingestion can result in breathing difficulties, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In some extreme cases, it’s even been linked to an increased mortality risk.
  • Tea Tree Oil – While diluted tea tree oil can be safely used as a topical treatment, it shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near your dog’s mouth. If you’re thinking of using it as a skin treatment, be careful to apply it only to areas your dog can’t lick.
  • Wormwood – While wormwood can be found in many dewormers, it should only be used only under direct veterinarian supervision. The tannins found in wormwood can irritate the liver and kidneys, and with prolonged use, it can have serious consequences. Avoid using it entirely if your pet suffers seizures, kidney problems or liver disease, or is pregnant and lactating, and consult your vet before using in all other cases.

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