Updated on November 15, 2009
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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