A: Recently we fielded an emergency phone call from a dog owner. She was worried because when she arrived home from work, she found that her dog had consumed half a jar of Nutella. The 13-ounce jar was tipped on its side on the floor bearing all the signs of a canine lick-fest.
Knowing how panicked the owner must be, I wanted to figure out quickly if her dog had eaten a toxic dose. With chocolate, it can be tough. Dark chocolate has more cocoa per ounce than milk, and chocolate spread? Nutella has how much cocoa in it?
Googling Nutella did absolutely nothing to tell me how much cocoa was in the product. The ingredient that causes the bad side effects is methyl xanthine. I hopped on my Veterinary Information network and found a posting by an ER vet who knew that European Nutella has 8.5 % cocoa or 8.5 grams per 100 grams of product, and the US Nutella has 7 grams. Going with the worst-case scenario, I began the calculations. After triple-checking my math, I determined that the pup had eaten 450 mg of cocoa, or half the potentially lethal dose.
A dose in this range could cause a racing heart and nervous tremors. A lethal dose could cause seizures and cardiac arrest. Her pup was showing no symptoms, but to be cautious we advised that he be examined. Since he had eaten the chocolate sometime during the day, the toxin had already been absorbed, and inducing vomiting was not on the table. He did well treated with fluids and activated charcoal.
If you ever have a poisoning emergency there is a hotline you can call:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center