The Grapes of Wrath

What a gorgeous time of year it is where I live, in the heart of northern California’s wine country. The leaves of the grapevines are luminescent shades of orange, yellow, and magenta. The vintners are smiling because the weather has provided them with a bumper crop.  Their grapes have been harvested and the “crush” is on.

As much as I enjoy this season, the grapes always create some anxiety for me.  What most people don’t realize is that grapes (and raisins) can be terribly toxic for dogs.  Fortunately, not all dogs become sick after eating grapes or raisins, but nothing clearly predicts which ones are susceptible.  For those who are, ingestion of even a small amount (as little as 0.35 ounces of grapes per pound of the dog’s body weight and 0.05 ounces of raisins per pound of the dog’s body weight) has the potential to cause kidney failure that may be irreversible. The toxic component within grapes and raisins hasn’t been identified, but it is thought to be contained within the flesh of the grape (not within the seeds). 

In susceptible dogs, symptoms of kidney failure develop within 24 hours following ingestion of the grapes or raisins.  They include: lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Partially digested grapes or raisins might be seen in the bowel movement or vomited material. What should you do if you discover that your dog has eaten grapes or raisins?  Seek out veterinary care as soon as possible- the earlier treatment is started, the better the prognosis.  If it has been less than a few hours, your veterinarian will induce vomiting to try to remove the toxin before it is absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream. If several hours have lapsed, hospitalization for treatment to prevent kidney failure will be recommended.  Once kidney failure develops, the prognosis is guarded. One study documented only a 53 percent survival rate even with aggressive treatment.  

So, here is the lesson of the season- dogs and grapes (or raisins) are a potentially lethal combination. Cats are thought to be susceptible to this toxicity as well.  Fortunately, cats who fancy fruit are few and far between! Please share this information with all of your dog-loving friends and relatives and ask them to do the same.  You just might save a life in the process! 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

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3 Responses to “The Grapes of Wrath”

  1. Vince F Says:

    what about figs?

    With my first hound who used to get into things while I was at work, I started leaving her in the yard during the day. The yard had a long alleyway leading back to a larger area that I couldn’t see. I open the door and called her one day, and she didn’t come. I walked back to see what was wrong, and she had gotten diarrhea ALL over the place, and there were some odd looking brown lumps along with it that I couldn’t figure out. I han’t been in the house very long, and hadn’t noticed the large fig tree next door and branches hung over the fence, and some had fallen and she must have eaten a bunch, and mouthed the ones that were just brown. Of course eating many she was a bit under the weather. That wasn’t as bad as her getting hold of some bug poison bait that had arsenic, strychnine, and cyanide in it. Like I said, she got INTO things. She was alive but not very active. She had been down the basement overnite with a friends dog, and usually pushed open in the AM to come up. I saw the tube the bait was in, and called poison info to find out what to do. She had gotten diarrhea and when I told them that, they said there was nothing that could be done, since it had gone through her system, and she would live or die on her own. I took her to a vets, and they said she would be fine, and gave her a vitamin shot. She was no worse for the incident.

  2. Carolyn Says:

    We are far far away from “wine country,” but I’ll bet it is beautiful. A bottle of wine for us here in Belize is a really special occasion. I do get the occasional raisin though — LOL –and keep in mind that it, and onions and chocolate, can be dangerous for Maggie. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Why Dog’s Can’t Have Grapes - Dogasaur Says:

    […] Click here to read Dr. Nancy’s full post. […]

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