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Lifestyle // The Wild Side
Dr. John Kaya

A Chocolate Lab’s Sweet Addiction

Rex walked into our office one day with his good buddy Koa, a 2-year-old rambunctious chocolate Labrador retriever. I’ve known Koa since he was a puppy, and offered him the usual hypoallergenic treat that he’s come to expect with each visit. Our hospital chooses to divvy out these healthy snacks to avoid allergic reactions in our patients. Koa gobbled the treat down and sat patiently with drool suspended from his lower lip in anticipation of another morsel.

“Hey, Doc, let me show you something,” announced Rex.

With that, Rex reached into his pocket and pulled out something in a wrapper. Koa obviously knew what was about to happen, as he immediately turned his attention to his master.

“Sit, Koa … sit. Good boy. Now play dead.” As Rex continued with what seemed to be an often-rehearsed routine of tricks, I tried to figure out what he held in his hand. The wrapper looked familiar, but with the constant motion involved in his commands, the details eluded my curiosity.

When the performance ended, Rex casually peeled back the paper and offered the mysterious treat to Koa. As I gazed intently at the object of Koa’s motivation, I slowly realized what Rex held in front of his K9 companion. CHOCOLATE!!!

“Wait,” I shouted, but to no avail, as I helplessly watched the sinful chocolate disappear into the maw of my slobbering patient. I turned to Rex with an expression that begged for an answer to the question: Why?

Rex smiled and said, “Doc, don’t worry. I give Koa one chocolate bar a day and he does just fine. Well, at first he used to get diarrhea, but now he just woofs down the chocolate without a hitch. Pretty cool, don’t you think? He’s addicted to the stuff.”

I took a deep breath then explained to Rex that chocolate is dangerous to dogs. Dogs metabolize the chemical theobromine that is found in chocolate at a slow rate.

At high dosages, theo-bromine can cause seizures, heart arrhythmias and death. The toxic effects are directly related to the amount of theo-bromine ingested and the weight of the dog.

Since Koa was about 70 pounds and he ate a milk chocolate bar, he ultimately was not in a lot of danger. If instead he was 20 pounds and ate a large amount of dark chocolate, the outcome may prove deadly.

“OK, Doc, I get it. As long as I don’t feed Koa dark chocolate, he’ll be fine.”

I was about to suggest that Rex should avoid all chocolate in general, but was interrupted by Koa’s barking and Rex’s excited exclamations: “Did you hear that, boy? Doc says you can have chocolate! You’re my good boy!”

Oh, well. I think there was some education that transpired that day, but in truth, I’m not so sure. Chocolate is a dangerous addiction to have in people for obvious reasons, but can be downright nasty in dogs.

There was no doubting that Koa was a chocolate Labrador all right – inside and out.

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