Most dog owners are familiar with their pet’s desire to share their food; it’s one of the many ways in which a dog’s mind works so very much like a human’s. A dog seeing its owner with food will, in relatively short order, come up next to the human and ask politely (or not, depending on your dog) to be given a taste.
There are plenty of cases where this proves entirely harmless, and many people enjoy tossing the dog a bite or two and the pursuant scrambling while their pet tries to pick up the meal. Some owners even get ahead of the game by specifically cutting a piece off for the dog ahead of time; chicken bones, gristle, and fish skins are all unappetizing or inedible to humans but will make the dog’s day over and over again.
As adorable as this display might be, pet owners need to be cautious of what exactly they’re tossing to their dog. Our minds might be similar, but humans and dogs have markedly different digestion that forces some important changes in our diets. In the same way that dogs will dive into raw meat or bone that would revolt a human, there are things that humans eat that dogs cannot.
Nutella, for instance, has gained considerable popularity nearly everywhere it has been introduced, and is a favorite spread for sandwiches, an ingredient in baking, and is probably eaten straight from the jar more often than anyone will readily admit. Humans love the chocolate hazelnut spread so much that there are already several limitations of it, but what would your dog make of a spoonful of this stuff?
The main concern in a dog eating Nutella, or any imitation thereof is the chocolate component, which is high in theobromine. In humans, this particle increases blood flow to the brain and heart and can have a hormonal effect, but canine digestion can’t properly break it down into their bloodstream. The resultant buildup of inert matter can very easily poison the dog in short order.
This is not only true of genuine chocolate, or even of genuine Nutella. Macadamia nuts, cocoa powder, and the artificial sweetener Xylitol, all used to simulate the taste of chocolate when the real thing would be too costly for an average consumer, retain enough theobromine to do serious harm to your dog.
Aside from the risk of a literal ‘death by chocolate’, Nutella also presents another problem – even a moderate amount of the stuff is more sugar than your dog is really supposed to have. Depending on the size and age of the dog involved, you might see them go into a ‘sugar high’, and prolonged use can lead to excessive weight, dental problems, or even diabetes.
The Good News
Although there is a legitimate reason to be concerned if your dog ate Nutella, it’s not as serious as some pet owners think. Despite the strong chocolate flavor of the spread, the ingredients containing the troublesome theobromine are only a minute percentage of the contents found in any one container. Most dogs should be able to survive eating small amounts of Nutella, depending on their weight, age, and whether or not they have any preexisting conditions.
In terms of immediate risk, your pet should not need medical intervention unless they have consumed most of a jar of Nutella. Smaller quantities are unlikely to kill the dog, although they should not be encouraged. You may see a brief period of indigestion or diarrhea, and your dog will likely be in a certain amount of abdominal pain.
If any of these symptoms persist or worsen, you may want to seek out veterinary assistance. If possible, have the jar from which the Nutella came ready, or find an identical one from the same brand. Different brands and runs of chocolate spread may use different ingredients to sweeten or flavor the spread, resulting in a different critical quantity even between two jars from the same manufacturer.
Although it will not kill the dog immediately, or even quickly, it is still a bad idea to let your dog have Nutella with any frequency. Regular helpings of Nutella will counteract the relatively minimal amounts of theobromine in each one and lead to the same deadly buildup that makes actual chocolate such a hazard for dogs. There are no real health benefits to balance it out, either; Nutella is high in oils and calories and low in most essential nutrients, two things that should stop you from making anything a regular part of a dog’s diet.
Keep in mind that although it’s a health hazard for them, dogs are unusually attracted to chocolate and chocolate products, and so are likely to make a grab for the Nutella if you give them the chance. Take extra care to have the container sealed firmly and put away after each use and to promptly and thoroughly wash any utensils used to spread it onto your meal. It is also a good idea to clean and wash any areas where the spread may have spilled on the floor or deen dropped there by accident.
Should your dog manage to down some Nutella despite all this, and assuming they are not showing any obvious signs of chocolate poisoning, watch them closely for the next two days for any signs they may be coming down sick. These signs can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite; any of these persisting for more than three days is enough to warrant a call to a trusted veterinarian if only to certify that the dog is actually doing fine.
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Nutella is bad for your dogs, both due to its theobromine content and the negative nutritional value of food packed with sugar, fat, and oil. Should they manage to get a mouthful or two by accident, they should be watched carefully for ill effects, but are most likely going to survive, but do not make it a regular snack or reward.
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