Cloves may be a favorite for baking during the festive season, but they aren’t so great for your dog. This guide explains why cloves and clove oil can be risky for your pooch.
Cloves and clove oil are unlikely to be harmful to your dog in small quantities. In higher quantities, however, they could pose a serious health risk, so it’s best to avoid them to be on the safe side.
Note: This article isn’t intended to be a substitute for professional advice and hasn’t been written by a veterinarian. If your dog has eaten any quantity of cloves or clove oil, you should always consult with a fully qualified veterinary professional.
What Are Cloves?
Cloves are the young, dried buds of the clove tree, which is commonly grown in Indonesia. They’re used ground or whole in a wide range of recipes, mainly because they provide a strong, spicy and warm flavor.
In particular, cloves are often added to dishes that are made during the festive season. You might find cloves in pumpkin pie, alongside the less intense spice flavorings of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Cloves also features in drinks like warmed mulled wine and eggnog, and is a popular spice when cooking aromatic Indian dishes.
Is it Safe for Dogs to Eat Cloves?
Clove isn’t regarded as safe for dogs to eat, especially in high quantities. But why is this?
The main reason is that clove contains an active ingredient called eugenol. While this substance may have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s known to be toxic to dogs, and even more so for cats, who can suffer from liver toxicity.
It’s not known at what quantities eugenol becomes a serious problem for your dog. It’s best to avoid feeding anything containing cloves, just to be on the safe side.
The only scientific reference we currently have is from a rather barbaric toxicity study that was conducted in the 1950s to determine dangerous levels of eugenol in dogs. Sadly, this draconian experiment resulted in two dogs dying. This was, however, after they were forced to ingest extremely high quantities of the substance.
So, if your dog manages to steal a piece of pumpkin pie from the table – don’t panic. Given there won’t be large quantities of clove in one piece, it’s not likely to cause major harm to your dog, except for perhaps a bit of an upset tummy! Of course, if there are other dangerous ingredients in the pie, such as nutmeg, then this could be a different matter.
“Due to the ‘warm’ and bitter taste, most dogs naturally dislike the taste of cloves so will usually avoid it,” adds vet Dr Linda Simon. “However, when mixed with lots of sugar and butter in the form of pies, this is when your dog is likely to ingest more.”
If your dog does manage to consume clove, you should seek veterinary advice. Providing them with an accurate description of how much clove was used in the recipe, if you can, would also be helpful to assess the risk.
What About Clove Oil?
Essential oils are growing in popularity as alternative treatments for humans and dogs. Unfortunately, some essential oils can be toxic to dogs, especially if administered incorrectly or in the wrong dosage.
There’s an incorrect idea that anything natural must be safe, but this isn’t the case. You should always do your research before using essential oils with your dog, and, if you’re unsure, seek the advice of a qualified vet.
Just like the spice, clove oil is an essential oil that isn’t recommended for use on or around dogs. You should also avoid diffusers containing clove, as it’s not easy to tell how much eugenol they contain.
In fact, care should be taken when using any diffuser in a home with dogs. Strong diffusers can be overpowering for your dog, with their sensitive sense of smell. Some oils in diffusers can also be toxic to dogs if inhaled, leading to a variety of potentially dangerous side effects.
Note: Cats can be even more sensitive to diffusers. They also shouldn’t be used around domestic birds, who have delicate respiratory tracts.
What Spices Are Safe for Dogs?
Your dog might not be able to enjoy cloves in their diet, but some spices won’t cause a problem. Of course, even the safe spices should only be allowed in moderation, to avoid the risk of tummy upsets.
If you plan to use any of these spices in supplement or essential oil form, especially if it’s for treatment of a medical condition, check with a vet first.
Some spices that are on the ‘safe list’ include:
- Ginger. This spice can be useful in helping to settle stomach upsets and could even prevent vomiting.
- Turmeric. Growing in popularity, this spice is frequently added to a dog’s diet for the potential health benefits. Studies are still ongoing, but it’s thought to have excellent anti-inflammatory properties and could aid digestion. “Additionally, I recently read an interesting study which demonstrated that ticks attach less to those sprayed with a turmeric oil compared to other oils,” adds Dr Linda Simon. “However, we should not be relying on this sort of thing for parasite prevention, and prescription products are nearly almost the most effective.”
- Licorice. This is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, along with antimicrobial and immune-stimulating properties. However, licorice root can be toxic in high amounts, so it should never be given without first consulting a vet.
- Fennel. This can provide relief from gastric discomfort, ease indigestion and help minimize flatulence. It also has great antibacterial qualities.
Clove is not a safe ingredient for your dog to eat. This is because clove contains eugenol, which is toxic to dogs.
A small piece of cake containing clove is unlikely to cause major problems – although you should still check with your vet. Clove in high quantities, however, can be dangerous. Ingesting lots of clove oil or a tub of dried cloves could even be life-threatening.
For this reason, make sure clove or clove oil is stored out of your dog’s reach. Never give foods containing this food to your dog, and be sure to seek veterinary advice if they accidentally ingest it.