Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Health

Can chocolate kill dogs? This corgi got lucky

As we were putting together today's issue of Personal Best, something of a theme developed: the nobility of dogs.

Our cover subject, Nicole Johnson, shared not only her terrific diabetes-friendly recipes, but also her latest and furriest weapon against the disease. Lucy the labradoodle is learning to detect when Nicole's blood sugar levels are plummeting, saving her from a crisis.

And columnist Bob Clark, who occasionally sends me videos of his amazing skateboarding dogs, has contributed a great rundown of the many health benefits dogs add to our lives.

My personal dog story, alas, is not quite so uplifting.

But I'm sharing it because the holidays are here, and chances are I'm not the only knucklehead who forgets how easy it is to turn a celebration for people into a near-disaster for pets.

It all started Halloween morning. Knowing I'd be stuck at work late, I arranged the candy in a basket and placed it on the table by the front door, well out of reach of our 5-year-old corgi, Freddie.

Corgis, if you haven't had the pleasure of meeting one, are smart, handsome, noble — and short, putting tables and kitchen counters out of their reach.

This is key because if dogs can be compulsive eaters, Freddie is one. Nasty stuff on the sidewalk, bits of stray onion that go flying off the cutting board, the occasional notepad — he's not picky.

But whether by levitation or ingenuity, Freddie snagged his prey. By the time my husband got home from work that evening, he counted 15 candy wrappers on the floor — alongside one bloated dog.

(Freddie rejected Reese's and Hershey bars for the Almond Joys, though I do not expect an endorsement deal.)

Anyway, Freddie reacted as one might expect, but the discomfort seemed to, er, pass.

But Saturday morning, my compulsive eater refused his breakfast kibble. I was alarmed.

Dr. Aimee Burke and the staff at Haines Road Animal Hospital did not scold me, though I can't imagine it wasn't tempting.

Freddie was poked, prodded and X-rayed. Fortunately, he didn't have a stray wrapper wedged in his colon. Unfortunately, blood tests revealed that his liver was not happy.

The veterinarian explained that chocolate contains methylxanthine, a caffeinelike stimulant. The darker the chocolate, the more the methylxanthine. This does a number on dogs and other animals. "The biggest effect is on the heart,'' she told me, explaining it can lead to fast heartbeat and low blood pressure. In Freddie's case, that meant not enough blood was getting to his liver.

She prescribed three medications that are bringing his liver counts back to normal. She thinks he'll be fine, given the liver's regenerative abilities.

We might not have had such a happy ending, however. Burke told me that chocolate is one the most common sources of poisoning in dogs, especially around the holidays. It can lead to coma, cardiac failure and even death.

So, no more leaving chocolate alone with Freddie.

Nor will I be having any poinsettias at home this season, even on high tables, as Burke confirms they're even more toxic than chocolate.

Biggest lesson: Even if your pet seems okay after ingesting something questionable, call your vet and explain what happened. Better to feel a little foolish than to take a terrible risk.

Charlotte Sutton I Health and medicine editor

Terry Tomalin I Outdoors/fitness editor

Brittany Volk I Designer

Scott Keeler I Cover photo

To advertise: Call (727) 893-8535.

Comments
Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

70 percent of cardiac arrests outside hospitals happen at home. American Heart Association 3 a.m. Jan. 4, 2016. Lisa Peters of St. Petersburg is awakened by her husband, Rick, making strange gasping sounds. She can’t wake him. He feels cold. Only 46...
Published: 02/16/18

Step by step, ramp up your daily activity

Jae Bermanhe Washington Post There are many reasons that people avoid exercise. Time is an obvious one. Our lives are already busy — who has time to work out? Money is another common excuse. Gym memberships and equipment can get pricey.People often w...
Published: 02/16/18
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

You’ve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

Emma Seppalahe Washington PostDan Harris is co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America. His first book, 10% Happier, was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He later launched the 10% Happier podcast and an app called...
Published: 02/15/18

Mayo Clinic Q&A: exercise stress tests; breast self-awareness versus self-exams

DON’T SWEAT THE EXERCISE STRESS TESTI have a treadmill stress test scheduled to look for heart disease. I know this involves exercising, and I’m worried that I’m not physically up to it. Is there another way to gather this information?Yes. There’s an...
Published: 02/15/18
Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Three years ago, Dr. Philip J. Cheng, a urology resident at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nicked himself while preparing an HIV-positive patient for surgery.Following hospital protocol, he took a one-month course of Truvada, a cocktail of t...
Published: 02/15/18
Doctor removes worm from Tampa man’s eye. ‘Luckily we caught it just in time’

Doctor removes worm from Tampa man’s eye. ‘Luckily we caught it just in time’

TAMPA — Nothing seemed wrong or out of place when it was time for Sam Cordero to make an appointment for a routine eye exam.The 57-year-old man from Tampa occasionally saw a few bright or foggy spots in his left eye, but thought it was just "floaters...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/15/18
A couple calls to ask, ‘Hey, can we donate our kidneys?’ The stranger who got one is in awe

A couple calls to ask, ‘Hey, can we donate our kidneys?’ The stranger who got one is in awe

LARGO — Keshava Persaud entered the room inside Largo Medical Center, his wife at his side. His eyes went right to the couple across the room. They looked so young, he thought. Tears welled as he handed the woman, April Scott, 49, potted white silk f...
Published: 02/14/18
Bayfront Health system gets new leader

Bayfront Health system gets new leader

Bayfront Health has hired a new executive position to oversee the six regional hospitals it operates along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Joseph Mullany has been appointed regional president and chief executive officer of Bayfront Health, and will overse...
Published: 02/13/18