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Canine Health and Wellbeing

Raisin and Grape Poisoning
Blowing The Whistle On A Killer

by Carole Kane
Regional Director, Atlantic Provinces

Megan and Robyn - photo courtesy of Carole Kane

Megan and Robyn
Photo courtesy of Carole Kane

Just as not all fleas bite, not all dogs will die from eating raisins, but how do you know yours is not one of them? I hope that telling Megan’s story might help save your dog’s life.

Little did we realize the nightmare that was about to unfold last February 14th when my daughter decided to bake some valentine cookies for her grandmother. How could this seemingly kind act end in such tragedy? Who could have predicted the unspeakable anguish and self recriminations we were about to endure? How was it possible that something as simple as baking cookies could end in the death of our beautiful two and half year old Airedale, Megan?

Lured into the kitchen by the good smells, Megan and her Golden Retriever pal Robyn stuck like glue to my daughter hoping for a treat. Good-naturedly, Cathy gave each a small handful of raisins before shooing them out of the kitchen. Megan’s day continued on much like any other, uneventful.

If February 14th seemed uneventful, February 15th was the beginning of anything but. That evening, unknown to us, the first signs of raisin poisoning began to rear its ugly head as Cathy noticed Megan standing momentarily in the kitchen with her back arched and abdomen indrawn. While the sight lingered, it was put off to a recurring back injury that Megan had sustained as a very young pup. Reflecting, she recalled that Megan had been out playing in the snow the evening before and had taken a tumble. Cathy started her on her Predisone prescription. Things seemed normal for the rest of the evening, save for one incident when Megan jumped off the bed letting out a yelp.

The next morning, February 16th, Megan was unable to climb the three sun porch stairs leading to the kitchen, and had to be carried up. Cathy reasoned this was probably due to her sore back.

On February 17th, Megan vomited her supper, she became extremely quiet and remained so for the next couple of days. We thought this a blessing considering she was nursing a back injury. The vomiting we put down to “must have eaten something that disagreed with her”, Airedales being notorious for eating anything that won’t eat them first.

On Saturday, February 21st, Megan stopped eating altogether. By now, the red flags were waving that there was something very wrong with her and we began to suspect it had nothing to do with her back. An appointment with our vet was scheduled. As luck would have it, our usual veterinarian was not available. The attending vet, thinking it was her recurring back problem, prescribed we up her dosage of Predisone, cautioning to bring her back on Monday if there was no improvement.

On Sunday, February 22nd, Megan’s condition began to deteriorate. As advised, we started her on a hamburger and rice diet, plus the sulcrate prescribed for her on Saturday. As the evening progressed she became more lethargic.

On Monday, February 23rd at 8:10 am, an overall physical exam was performed by our regular vet and blood tests run. Little were we prepared for what he was about to tell us. The tests revealed that Megan was in acute renal (kidney) failure – in fact, her tests results were so high they were off the chart. Numbed, we tried to think of possible causes: antifreeze, not a possibility; Leptospirosis, no cases noted in our area for years. But to be on the safe side and to rule out Leptospirosis, a blood sample was sent to Utah for analysis. These test results would take a week.

Immediately IVs were started to flush the kidneys along with antibiotic therapy and other supportive measures. It was decided to treat Megan as a suspected case of Leptospirosis until the test results proved otherwise. These IVs would continue to drip nonstop day and night until March 8th, almost two weeks.

Now on a low protein kidney diet, nutrition became a nightmare, nausea proved to be a bitter foe. Megan’s weight plummeted from a healthy 50 plus pounds to just under a skin and bones 40 pounds. With fat stores depleted, an all out battle was waged to stop her body from burning muscle (protein), which would further damage her kidneys. Her food was liquefied and syringed in a few ccs at a time every hour on the hour, round the clock, and prayed it would stay down – sometimes it did, sometimes not.

On day four of Megan’s treatment, things took an ominous turn. As my daughter and another vet were changing Megan’s IV, my vet and I were quietly talking close by. During the course of the conversation, my vet said “there are only a few things that can cause sudden acute renal failure: antifreeze, Leptospirosis, or grapes and raisins.” The grapes or raisins theory just seem to fall on cold ground … that is, until about twenty minutes after getting home I received a frantic call from my daughter saying "My God, Mom, I gave Megan a handful of raisins on Valentine’s day when I was baking Nan’s cookies.”

Doubtful, I turned to the Internet for information on raisin toxicity in dogs. When we compared the notes Cathy kept on Megan’s symptoms and their time frames with those of the Internet, they were identical. Cathy called our vet, he immediately got in touch with the toxicologist at the University of PEI Atlantic Veterinary College. After reviewing Megan’s symptoms and test results the toxicologists confirmed our worst fears – that her sudden acute kidney failure was in all probability caused by raisin poisoning. And later, the negative Leptospirosis result supported this.

The toxicologist informed our vet that during the past year they had lost several dogs through raisin poisoning, one of which was her sister’s dog. We learned that raisins are more lethal than grapes, that one small serving of raisins can put a dog into acute kidney failure from which there is no return, unless emergency treatment is started within hours. Nine days had gone by before we made the connection between Megan and raisins.

On March 8th, it was decided that Megan’s IVs should be discontinued to see if her kidneys could function on their own. Sadly, three days later, just after the stroke of midnight on March 12th, Megan lost her battle to the wrath of grapes.

For more information on grapes and raisin poisoning in dogs, please go to this Web site:

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Toxicology Publications: The Wrath Of Grapes

 

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