“Magoo was a big, playful Labrador Retriever who often got into sticky situations …”
So begins the story of the latest ASPCA report on foods that can be toxic to dogs. It turned out that Magoo had entered the pantry and was hooked on a pound of raisins. He of course ate the whole meal.
The ASPCA never mentions the fate of Magoo. But they tell us that only a few raisins can harm a dog’s health, and for some it was fatal. Same for grapes.
I grew up in our family as the “first dishwasher cycle”. It was good for them to wait in line for what we would leave on our plates, and we were not too worried about offering them “people food”. We never thought that the health of our dogs could be jeopardized by a few careful table entries. What was safe for us, we thought, was safe for our pets as well.
What’s more, every time I ate grapes, I loved giving one or two to our German shepherd, Tiffany. The grapes would always pop out of her mouth as she tried to bite into them. Tiffany, who has always been a good sportsman, refused to give up until she teased everyone. This guaranteed at least 60 seconds of harmless fun.
Tiffany also loved chewing gum (she chewed it – wrapping paper and everything, but didn’t swallow it!). We had sugar-free sugar, which is often sweetened with xylitol these days.
Little did I know that I might have poisoned our family pet! (More about xylitol below).
Why are grapes harmful?
When it comes to grapes and raisins, no one is sure why they are harmful. It is confirmed that even grapes grown without fertilizers or pesticides can be toxic to dogs. But not for every dog and not every time. It is also not known whether small amounts consumed over long periods can have a cumulative effect.
We know that in almost all reported grape or raisin toxicity, the end result is acute renal failure. (The term “acute” means that the condition is severe and turns on quickly.) The dog is ultimately unable to produce urine, meaning that it cannot filter out toxins from its systems – a vital process.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center analyzed 140 cases involving one or more dogs during the 12-month period during which the effects of the grapes were studied. More than a third of dogs had symptoms ranging from vomiting to kidney failure, and seven dogs died. The ASPCA based its investigation on reported cases, so naturally there may be cases where eating grapes does not completely affect the health of the dog. But until they know all the facts, the Society does not recommend feeding animals of any size with grapes or raisins.
An ounce of prevention
So, your dog just collected a big box of raisins for himself. What to do with the pet owner?
If grapes or raisins have been eaten recently, the first line of defense is vomiting and the injection of activated charcoal (it absorbs toxins in the gastrointestinal tract). Vomiting is also the first sign that your dog is in trouble, so if vomiting is already present, switch to activated charcoal. (You can make your own activated carbon from a pinch by shaking a piece of toast until it becomes black and easily crushed.) Then call your vet right away.
Can’t reach the vet? Call me ASPCA Poison Control: 888-426-4435
Your veterinarian will monitor your dog’s intravenous fluid for at least 48 hours and monitor blood chemistry daily. Normal blood work after 3 days usually means your dog is free.
Active waking is certainly the best way to protect your pet from trouble. Like children, dogs (and other pets) experience evil when we don’t look.
It’s not just grapes …
There are other foods your dog should keep away from, and some of them may surprise you.
Here are some other foods that can harm your dog’s health:
Who can resist chocolate? Like it’s not yours, your dog.
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, and cocoa beans contain a chemical called Theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. Dark chocolate has the highest content of theobromine in 450 mg (compared to 1 mg of white chocolate). So on Valentine’s Day, you’re actually kind to your best buddy if you eat all the chocolates yourself!
Cocoa shells are a by-product of chocolate making (which is why mulch has made it into the “food” category) and are popular as mulch for planting. Homeowners love the attractive color and smell and the fact that mulch breaks down into organic fertilizers. However, some dogs love to eat it and it contains theobromine.
Fatty food is difficult for the dog to digest and can contaminate the pancreas causing pancreatitis. This can endanger the health of your dog and can be fatal.
Macadamia nuts should be avoided. In fact, most nuts are not harmful to dog health as they are said to cause bladder stones due to their high phosphorus content.
Mulch is not food, but there is one species that tempt dogs to eat. Some dogs are attracted to cocoa mulch and will eat in varying amounts. Cocoa bean shells may contain between 0.2% and 3% of theobromine (toxin) compared to 1-4% of untreated beans.
Onions, especially untreated onions, have been shown to cause canine hemolytic anemia. (Book of Stephen J Ettinger, D. V. M., and Edward C. Fieldman, D. V. M.: Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Vol. 2, p. 1884.) Keep also the onion powder.
Potato poisoning between humans and dogs is rare but has occurred. Toxin, solanine, is poorly absorbed and found only in green sprouts (they are in tubers, exposed to sunlight) and in green potato skins. This explains why incidents are rare. Remember that cooked mashed potatoes are good for dog health, are actually quite nutritious and digestible.
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, especially without sugar and gums and sweets. Swallowing large quantities of products sweetened with xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, depression, coordination and seizures in dogs. According to Erik K. Dunayer, a clinical toxicology consultant at the Poison Control Center, these symptoms can appear quite quickly, sometimes less than 30 minutes after ingestion.”