Grapes of Wrath
By Tamara Sevigny
Roxy is a large German Shepherd who often spends a lot of unsupervised time in her big fenced-in backyard. At 7-years-old Roxy has been doing this for a long time. She enjoys being out, sniffing around, doing her business, and lounging on the deck. Lately, Roxy hadn’t been feeling well, but she took a turn for the worse when she got into some grapes that were hanging over the fence from a neighbor’s yard. “Those grapes have been there for years, there is no way to know how long she’s been eating them or why they made her sick this time,” said Roxy’s owner, Pat DelVecchio of Milford. “I didn’t even know grapes were poisonous to dogs. I know lots of people who have fed their dogs grapes.”
Roxy’s owners didn’t know she had eaten any grapes after she came inside. She was just acting funny. “She was following me around, staying really close, which means ‘I don’t feel good and I don’t want to be alone.’” Then Roxy started walking funny and was acting like she was drunk. By morning she could barely walk and was rushed off to the vet. Dr. Stan Weill of the Mobile Veterinary Clinic in Milford ran some blood work and found high levels of toxicity in her liver and knew she got into something bad.
Roxy only got worse. She couldn’t walk at all, couldn’t drink or eat, and was having alarming tremors. She stayed at the vet for five days and was administered IV fluids. But once the toxins were finally flushed from her system she was as good as new!
Researchers don’t yet know why dogs get sick from eating grapes, or in many cases why they don’t. Some eat a lot, some eat a little. Some eat store-bought, others eat wild grapes, and all are different brands and types. And grape poisoning is more common than you would think. Dr. Weill had seen two other dogs that same week that had been poisoned by grapes.
It was around 1989 that the Animal Poison Control Center started noticing a trend of sickness in dogs that had eaten grapes or raisins. Almost all developed kidney failure, vomiting within a few hours of eating them and many would stop eating and develop diarrhea. They became lethargic and showed signs of abdominal pain; symptoms lasting several days to weeks.
In the cases that were researched the dog’s blood chemistry panels showed consistent patterns. Hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium levels) were often present and elevated levels of blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, and phosphorous (substances that reflect kidney function) were. Levels only increased in the first 24 hours to several days after ingestion. If kidney damage developed then many of the dogs couldn’t produce urine, and in most cases inevitably resulted in death. And in some cases, those dogs that received immediate vet care still had to be euthanized. But death is not always the end result. Many have been treated successfully and kidney failure was prevented, as in Roxy’s case.
No one knows why grapes and raisins make a dog ill, despite the effort of researchers. What they do know is that it can be fatal. It could save your pet’s life by avoiding grapes and raisins in their diet. And be sure to check your back yards for any wild-growing grapes.
If you suspect your pet may have been poisoned or has ingested a toxic substance call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour emergency hotline at 888-426-4435. For non-emergency inquiries email [email protected] or visit their website at www.aspca.org.
It’s not just grapes that are poisonous to dogs
What else to avoid:
• Yeast dough
• Fatty Foods
• Rotten or Spoiled Foods
• Artificial Sweeteners
• Mice Droppings
• Cocoa Mulch