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Old 07-17-2004, 09:33 AM
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Renee750il Renee750il is offline
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Default Finally, some reliable info on grapes & raisins

This is long, (I'm going to have to split it up into two posts) but worthwhile considering how many times I've seen questions and speculation about whether or not it is dangerous for dogs to eat grapes and raisins. I found it on a Fila forum with permission to cross-post:

This paper is a summation of a recent case in my clinic of acute renal failure attributed to raisin consumption/toxicity. The information about this patient is provided by permission of his owner, Michelle Rine. I have also attempted to summarize some of the current literature available on grape and raisin toxicity. For those who receive this information either directly or in a forward, please be advised that this is an actual case and not another Internet hoax. I am sending it out in response to the many, many telephone calls we received at the clinic from not only veterinarians, but technicians, groomers, breeders and pet owners who wanted to verify a very brief initial warning I sent out to about 25 friends and acquaintances the night of Scotchie’s untimely passing. Anyone receiving this information has my permission to publish it in club or breed newsletters, bulletins, magazines, newspapers or in any other form necessary to reach as many people as possible. Further verification may be obtained by consulting the sources I have noted or by calling my office at 740-599-5991. It is the hope of Michelle, my staff and myself that in sharing this information, the devastating loss of Scotch will not have been in vain should one pet be saved from it.


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It has been a common practice to use grapes and raisins in various capacities with our pets—veterinarians have often suggested a grape or two as a low calorie snack for our weight conscious patients, and trainers have recommended using raisins as training treats for such events as obedience and agility. If a question had arisen just a few short years ago regarding potential grape or raisin toxicity, even the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) would have discounted any concern.

As a senior veterinary student at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in the spring of 2001, I avidly read all veterinary journals delivered to my doorstep. A <st1:date Year="2001" Day="15" Month="5">May 15, 2001</st1:date> letter to the editor in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) caught my eye. Written by Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, et al. from the ASPCA’s APCC, it summarized a review of cases from their database. They noted 10 dogs with evidence of ingestion of large amounts of grapes or raisins and a correlation with acute renal failure (ARF). I recall being surprised at the information but resolved to not recommend grapes or raisins to my clients as treats for their pets.

Unfortunately in April, 2004, that mentally filed snippet of knowledge became essential information. Scotchie, a 5-year-old, 56 pound, male castrated Labrador mix had indulged in some mischievous activity while his owners were at work. Sometime between 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM, Scotch removed a cardboard canister of raisins (15 ounce container) and ingested the remaining contents (approximately 8 ounces). When his owner, Michelle, returned from work that evening, she cleaned up the pieces of the container but didn’t give the contents a second thought. Most pet owners wouldn’t. After all, as humans, we consume raisins with no ill effects, so why should pets be any different? Scotch began vomiting and having diarrhea about 1 AM with some body tremors. Still thinking the signs were due to dietary indiscretion and not wanting to wake anyone at that time of night, his owner kept him comfortable until she called our service at 7 AM. Our receptionist, Lois, had fortunately also seen something about raisin toxicity at some point and advised Michelle to bring Scotchie in at 8 AM. She then called me.

“Acute renal failure,” I thought. I commended Lois for her quick and accurate thinking and said we would run a general health profile, electrolytes and CBC on presentation. I also called our local specialty/emergency referral center and talked to one of the ER doctors, a former classmate, who was on duty. He had also heard about ARF and raisins but knew no more than I. He recommended contacting poison control. Our owner called the North Shore Animal Protection League Poison Hotline and received a case number and treatment recommendations for Scotch—IV fluids at 1 ½ times maintenance and follow-up renal values for 48-72 hours. On presentation, Scotch was bright and alert, weight was 58#, temperature 99.9 degrees F, panting, HR 130. Blood profile abnormalities indicated ALT 126 u/L (10-100), BUN 32.8 mg/dl (7.0-12.0), calcium 12.01 ng/dl (7.90-12.0), creatinine 5.20 ng/dl (0.50-1.80) and glucose 145.3 mg/dl (77.0-125.0). Electolytes and CBC were within normal limits. An IV catheter was placed in the left cephalic vein and Scotchie was started on lactated Ringer’s solution at 93 ml/hr. He remained alert with no vomiting and was taken out on 3 occasions to urinate. He failed to produce any urine in any of the three trips. At 5 PM his renal functions and electrolytes were repeated. Electrolytes were still normal but BUN had increased to 43.7 mg/dl and creatinine to 7.1 mg/dl. He had received nearly a liter of fluids at this point. I felt it was in his best interest to send him to the referral clinic for overnight monitoring and a urinary catheter. The owners agreed and headed out for the hour plus drive with fluids still running. I called the center and spoke with the ER doctor then on duty to alert her to my concerns for Scotchie. She had also heard of a correlation between ARF and raisins but had never seen a case. She concurred with my thoughts of placing a urinary catheter and monitoring urine output as well as continuing fluid therapy.

On presentation to the referral center, Scotchie was ambulatory and alert, temperature was 100.3 degrees F, HR/pulse 124, respiration: panting, mucous membranes slightly injected, weight 56#. He had managed to chew his IV catheter out in the car so it was replaced. He had no abdominal pain but his bladder was not palpable. Heart sounds were normal and lungs were clear with normal respiratory effort.

Once the IV catheter was in place, he was started on 0.9% NaCl with 20 meq KCl at 140 ml/hr—2 times maintenance. He was given 15 mg famotidine IV and 600 mg keflin IV q 8 hr. (for the urinary catheter). A urinary catheter was placed and put on a closed collection system. An in house urinalysis was performed. Protein was 2+, pH 8 and specific gravity 1.012. All other values were normal. A urine culture/sensitivity (recommended by the Internal Medicine department) was sent out and was subsequently found to have no growth. Overnight Scotchie produced small amounts of urine (with lasix given) and began vomiting. At 1 AM he was bolused with 500 ml 0.9% NaCl and given 7.5 mg reglan IV. At 1:30 AM he vomited 3 more times. It was recommended then that he be transferred to Internal Medicine (IM) in the morning since the vomiting had become a problem. The owners agreed.

When I spoke to Scotchie’s IM doctor on the morning of the 15th, now two days after the exposure, he said the vomiting was still an issue and that urine production waxed and waned with lasix boluses. An abdominal ultrasound was planned as well as more bloodwork and continued aggressive fluid therapy and IV anti-emetics. That evening, I received a report of a normal ultrasound with minimal abdominal effusion and structurally normal kidneys. The blood chemistry profile, however, noted an ever-increasing BUN (76), creatinine (7.4), phosphorous (6.5) and potassium (6.3). On the CBC, hemoglobin was low at 12.8 gm/dl (14.0-18.0) as was plasma protein at 5.1 gm/dl (6.0-7.5) and lymphocytes at 0.66 x 1000 ul (1.20-5.20). Scotchie was bright and alert when his owners visited. At some point during hospitalization, Scotch’s fluids were switched to 0.45% NaCl with 2.5% dextrose, the rate in conjunction with urine output. He continued to receive IV keflin tid and blood pressures were monitored every 12 hours. His urine output was monitored every 2 hours.

On the morning of the 16th I learned that the vomiting had begun again. The plan was to continue with therapy as per the previous day and to recheck blood values. When I checked in that evening, I was told that Scotch was again bright and alert when his family visited. However, today his BUN rose to 106, creatinine to 8.5, phosphorous to 9.4 and potassium to 7.0. It had been decided to continue therapy through Saturday and then decide if any response to treatment had been achieved.

(continued on next post)
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Old 07-17-2004, 09:36 AM
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Renee750il Renee750il is offline
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On Saturday morning I spoke to the technician assigned to Scotchie. She said the vomiting had subsided overnight but began again that morning. The plan was to repeat bloodwork and make a determination from there whether to continue treatment. She also said it was the first case of raisin toxicity they had ever seen at the center.

An electrolyte panel done at showed sodium at 141 mmol/L (145-157) and potassium at 6.1 mmol/L (3.7-5.3) with normal chloride. A CBC at 5 AM showed hemoglobin at 12.5 gm/dl (14.0-18.0), RDW at 10.9% (12.0-14.5) and lymphocytes at 0.36 x 1000 ul (1.20-5.20). The rest of the CBC was within normal limits. At 10 AM a profile was repeated. BUN was now 122, creatinine 10.0 and phosphorous 11.2. Throughout his hospitalization Scotchie’s urine production would vary between 150-200 ml per 2 hours to as little as 50 ml per 2 hours even with intermittent boluses of lasix to increase production. After 72 hours of aggressive fluid therapy, Scotchie’s level of azotemia continued to progress and his blood pressure rose to 230. Based on the poor response to therapy as well as the diuretics used to attempt to convert the oliguria and the overall poor prognosis, the owners made the heartwrenching decision to euthanize with private cremation. The next therapeutic step would have been an attempt at peritoneal dialysis. Cost estimates for this, even conservatively, could have run well over $10,000 with a very guarded to poor prognosis. I received the sad news from the attending DVM at 3 PM on Saturday afternoon.

That evening, I sent out a quick e-mail to about 25-30 people in my e-mail address book. Some are veterinarians, some breeders, but most just dog-loving pet owners. I asked that they please send the warning on to their friends. I included my name and clinic so anyone with questions could call to verify this was not another Internet hoax. Since then, we have been overwhelmed with calls from all over —veterinarians, breeders, groomers and pet owners—asking for confirmation of the story. I decided to write the case up with Michelle’s blessing and send the information back out to try to alert both animal care professionals and pet owners alike of the serious health risk.

When I called the North Shore Animal League’s to report Scotchie’s untimely passing, I learned more about grape/raisin toxicity. The spokesperson told me that the center has had reports of toxic episodes with as little as consumption of seven raisins. She also stated that initially it was thought imported grapes were the culprit (perhaps due to a specific pesticide being used). It has since been determined that domestically grown, untreated grapes were just as toxic.

Further literature investigation and communication by e-mail with Dr. Gwaltney-Brant revealed more published information. Dr. Charlotte Means, a veterinary toxicologist at the ASPCA’s APCC in, published “The Wrath of Grapes” in the ASPCA Animal Watch, Summer 2002, Volume 22, Number 2. There were 2 letters to the editor from veterinarians in the United Kingdom published in Veterinary Record on 3/8/03, p. 308; 152 (10) and 3/22/03, p. 376, 152 (12) recounting cases that were treated with aggressive fluid therapy, furosemide, dopamine and peritoneal dialysis. The animals were either euthanized or died from complications of renal failure.

In the Dr. Gwaltney-Brant article in JAVMA (Vol. 218, No. 10, May 15, 2001, p. 1555, Letter to the Editor) 10 cases reviewed from the ASPCA APCC computerized database noted 8 of the 10 were reported from 1999 through March, 2001. Various brands of commercial sun-dried raisins and grapes from various sources (the majority being red seedless) were involved. Vomiting began within the first few hours of ingestion in all dogs. Most passed partially digested raisins or grapes in the vomitus, feces or both. Some were reported to exhibit anorexia, diarrhea, lethargy or signs of abdominal pain. Some of the clinical signs continued from days to three weeks post ingestion.

Metabolically the animals exhibited hypercalcemia, hyperphosphatemia, increased BUN and/or increased serum creatinine 24 hours to several days after ingestion. Oliguria (decreased urine production) or anuria (no urine production) with or without isothenuria was reported in several dogs. Three dogs were euthanized and two died. Five recovered with aggressive fluid therapy which lasted up to 3 weeks in some cases. One dog receiving peritoneal dialysis recovered completely. At the time the letter was written, screening for various contaminants (e.g. mycotoxins or heavy metals) was negative, with further results pending.

One dog who underwent necropsy examination exhibited mild renal tubular damage and metastatic mineralization of numerous tissues, but the pathologist felt the severity of the lesions was insufficient to explain the severity of the dog’s clinical illness.

The important point of this discussion is simply that ingestion of grapes or raisins is a medical emergency. Recent ingestion should be handled as with other toxin exposure: emesis, lavage and activated charcoal. According to poison control, fluids should be administered for a minimum of 48 hours and serum chemistries monitored for 72 hours for the development of acute renal failure. It has been stated that if all bloodwork is normal after 3 days, it is unlikely the animal will develop renal failure. It has also been reported that dogs who become oliguric or anuric have the poorest prognosis for recovery. Further speculation regarding the inciting cause of the toxicity has ranged from an unknown nephrotoxin, an idiosyncratic reaction, contamination with mold toxin (ochratoxin), the presence of high levels of Vitamin D or other similar compound, pesticides or other environmental toxin or some unknown intrinsic toxin. As yet, no specific agent or cause has been confirmed.

Sources for further information include the ASPCA website and the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), a members only site.
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Old 07-17-2004, 11:09 AM
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sheltiepups sheltiepups is offline
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thanks! that's nice to know!
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Old 01-18-2005, 08:03 AM
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Renee, great article! I only found out about the grapes & raisins last year after having dogs for many years.
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Old 03-17-2005, 12:23 AM
nohea nohea is offline
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Renee, thanks for the detailed info.. I know that when our pups were sick, it was a concern they had, but we knew they hadn't been into any grapes. I do have a question though, do they know if it is a certain type of grapes? The reason I ask is that we have concords in our back yard and our 3 dogs used to steal them off the vine constantly, ingesting tons of them I'm sure and with no ill effects. I don't know if it's that some grapes are safe, dogs can build up a tolerance or what, so I was just curious! (The area is now fenced to keep the kids out, just in case though!)
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Old 03-19-2005, 10:03 AM
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Renee750il Renee750il is offline
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I've never seen anything differentiating between types of grapes. I got a bad scare one day when I came home and found that Shiva had stolen and eaten a bag of gourmet raisins I had put back to cook with! She's none the worse for it, though. Except that I was pretty irritated with her for eating a $5.00 bag of raisins! I don't splurge like that very often - only when I've got something special in mind to put together.

She also ate an entire bag of Oreos once. She pulled the cookie jar down off the BACK of the counter. What a dog!
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Old 04-21-2005, 11:05 PM
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German_Shepherd_Lover German_Shepherd_Lover is offline
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Ya, My 4 1/2 year old Weimeraner is about 30 lbs overweight. She constently get food from my little brothers leftovers(he NEVER learns. Name it she's eaten it. Girl scout cookies, Peanuts, crackers, she even eats thos paper plates. We try to take her on walks and put her on weight managment food, but she gains it right back. But I'm hoping that a few smacks in the head will keep my little bro from leaving food out and she might loose at lest 10lbs. I'll post a pic of "Fat girl" when I find the camera
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Old 08-07-2005, 06:16 PM
DogtorJ DogtorJ is offline
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Default Grapes-A possible example of other "idiopathic" conditions

I find this topic fascinating. The first time I heard this reported, I said "What???" just like the rest of you. "I have been feeding my dogs grapes for years without incidence" I said. "Why would something that has so many health benefits in people (minus the pesticide residues) cause so much trouble in dogs?" I guess many would leave that question unanswered or be content with the list of possible explanations and simply stop feeding grapes to dogs. Buuuut, after 5 years of pretty intense medical research, studying everything from Alzheimer's to Zinc deficiency, I had to give it my best shot.

And here it is- First of all, what do we know? Hmmm... We know that there have been very few reported cases. There have probably been more but were just written off as something else like antifreeze intoxication or immune glomerulonephritis (more on that in a minute). We also know that the dose of the raisins or grapes ranged from a large quantity to a quite small amount. This is a big key. This makes poisoning very unlikely. And if it were a poison, they would have been able to ID this most likely. Plus, most pesticides affect the liver not the kidneys. The KIDNEYS are the target organ- another key fact.

What is one of the most common causes of death of (older) dogs and cats? Kidney failure. What is the most common cause of kidney failure? (Chronic) immune glomerulonephritis. What is the cause of immune glomerulonephritis? Ahhh, now there is where it gets interesting. Most would say that it is "idiopathic" (just like we have to label his grape thing as being right now, interestingly.). Unfortunately, the consensus of opinion is that this "idiopathic" form of kidney failure is an "autoimmune" disorder, in which the immune system goes "haywire" and attacks the body's tissues for no reason. "Its a genetic thing" is what is often said.

I contend that the body does not make that kind of "mistake"...ever. The immune system never attacks the body "for no reason". There is something IN that tissue that it doesn't like...some foreign protein that has taken up residence in that tissue. What would be there? The usual suspects...viruses, mycoplasma, food proteins (lectins- ), bacteria, yeast, and others. Actually, This has been suspected to be the case for years.

Viruses are KNOWN to inhabit many of our tissues, laying dormant for years, sometimes lifetimes, just waiting for their opportunity to pop up and cause trouble. Great examples are Herpes, shingles, and even AIDS (How long has Magic Johnson been HIV positive now?). Many cancers are known to be viral now. When did we acquire these guys? Could some of them have been there since birth, even transmitted from mother to offspring? We know that this happens, too. Could this explain "genetic" cancers? Why do so many immune-related disorders have remitting/relapsing symptoms? Sounds sort of like a Herpes virus infection, doesn't it?

Did you know that plants contain viruses? Have you looked into what GMO's really are? (Oh oh).

The fact is that viruses are ubiquitous in nature. A single teaspoon of sea water contains over a billion viruses. Viruses are ESSENTIAL in nature, being responsible for adaptation by living things and variation in nature. Viruses mutate and adapt. (Do genes really mutate??? Great question. We know something that does for sure, don't we? Do viruses ever incorporate their genetic material into ours? Of course. That IS what they do.)

In the cat, there is a viral condition known as FIP. What an interesting condition. It starts with the cat contracting the FIP virus (a corona virus). The infection is usually either inapparent or a mild upper respiratory infection that the cat quickly suppresses. BUT, the virus sometimes disseminates (spreads) throughout the body, setting up housekeeping in various tissues (liver, kidneys, brain, eyes, lining of the chest/abdomen, etc). THEN, upon subsequent exposure to the virus again... OR an FIP-LIKE virus (very important here!!!)...the immune response to the new virus spills over into the tissue where the original virus is located and the immune system attacks that tissue with the old virus in it. This is the KNOWN mechanism for FIP, with the symtoms arising from the immune response to the virus in the tissue and the subsequent death of some of that tissue. Wow! What a great example of "autoimmunity". Sounds sort of like "friendly fire", doesn't it?

So you probably see where I am going with this now. WHAT IF the grapes raisins contain a VIRUS...a plant virus...that is similar to the one already in the kidneys of the dog that eats those grapes/raisins? Afterall, many dogs are bound to have viruses in their kidneys already. (Researchers KNOW they are there, just as they are in the brain, liver, and other tissues.) And we now know from conditions like FIP that one of the mechanisms of immune-mediated disease is re-exposure to a virus (or vaccine. Oh oh, again) with the cascade of events described above taking place.

So, I could easily believe that the grape "poisoning" is an acute, immune-mediated reaction to a plant virus that resembles one already in the kidney of the affected dog. That would explain much, wouldn't it? It would explain the low incidence, the low dose of grapes/raisins required, the rapid course (how long does it take to have an immune response to something?), and the fact that all tests have failed to identify the culprit. Viruses can be hard to identify and isolate, can't they? If they weren't , we would have a much better handle on our "idiopathic" immune-mediated diseases for one thing.

Why do I find this "fascinating"? Because I see the real danger in GMO's as do many knowledgeable scientists. And they are doing some crazy things with new genetics technology, crossing deep water halibut genes with tomatoes to make them last longer in the refrigerator. It is a sort of "Island of Dr. Moreaux" sort of thing. (You may need to look that one up. ) As I tell people, "Hey,I saw Alien 3-The Resurrection. I know how sci-fi experiments can go very badly". When did we think we could mess with Nature this way???

Food for thought, eh?

Dogtor J.
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"For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." 1 Corinthians 13: 9,10

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Old 06-28-2006, 11:37 AM
julieandchili julieandchili is offline
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Thanks for the info! My pup hasnt gotten any people food yet (except a few pieces of Kraft Dinner that he scarfed down when my youngest dropped it).
I rarely have raisins in the house cuz believe it or not, they are horrible for kids teeth. We have grapes all the time though.

Does anyone have some type of list of unacceptable/dangerous foods for dogs?
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Old 09-28-2006, 04:31 PM
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Doberluv Doberluv is offline
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Thanks Renee. That is so awful. I definitely have read about grapes and just the other day in a dog magazine where a trainer writes an article, she recommends grapes as a treat reward. I just cringed when I saw that.

Dogtor...very interesting. Thanks for your input and insight.

Just this morning my Chi mix (about 14 lbs) got into a partial package of chocolate chip cookies that my son left on the coffee table. There were about 6 or 8 of them, I'm guessing. I hope that amount of chocolate won't hurt him. But I'll be watching. I think it takes a lot of chocolate to harm a dog. My GSD ate a whole Easter basket full of chocolate once. But these little dogs.....well, that's scarier.

Here's a list. There are more websites if you do a google search.
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