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When scare tactics create income it raises questions. Is veterinary misinformation a conflict of interest? A study on the veracity of ASPCA, Poison Control, and Snopes debunks a myth and leads good vets to consider PESTICIDE poisoning before blaming grapes.



KILLER GRAPES & raisins?



by Barbara J. Andrews and Nel Liquorman - TheDogPlace June 2009 /  (Part 1)


Snopes and ASPCA Poison Control say grapes are deadly to dogs but breeder survey disagrees.

Whether it could be from grapes or pesticide poisoning,
Poison Control lists raisin-grape poisoning symptoms as vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lethargy, anorexia, colic, dehydration and renal failure (death) if untreated so seek veterinary help if your pet shows more than two of those symptoms,


TheDogPlace was chastised for including grapes on a list of fruits and veggies dogs appreciate but the article also warned of pesticide toxicity ratings and warnings.  Several indignant emails referred us to the "deadly grapes" warning on Snopes which references the Poison Control Center.  We would have left it at that but now there is more you need to know about the toxicity reports associated with grapes and raisins.  First the facts and then, because this “urban legend” is so convoluted, background on the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. 


No Grape or Raisin Toxicity Study

Rather than respond with fifty years of personal observations, we decided to ask the world's best dog health experts!  See survey results below.  In addition, we were unable to find any veterinary university study on the alleged deadly effects of raisins or grapes.  We thought that was suspiciously derelict as regards research and a duty to protect dogs.  If something so common can so easily kill so many dogs, why would the vet schools not research it?  It was then brought to our attention that there is no profitable prevention, prescription or antidote.  Well!  That explains that but it doesn’t explain how the urban legend began or why it hasn’t been debunked until now.  There is however, an interesting theory we will share with you.


Snopes is the brainchild of a couple who saw the need for debunking Urban Legends just as we see the need to enlighten pet owners.  So we checked Snopes as the oft-cited source for the "deadly grapes" stories but found only a vet’s personal assessment, a brief dissertation written by someone with no listed veterinary credentials, and interestingly, numerous references back to APCC which is apparently owned by the ASPCA.


(Editor's note: Feb. 22, 2011: We had reason to check the Snopes website today.  The original article we downloaded, printed, and referenced in June 2009 has been updated and substantially re-worded and there is now a new article, see below.)


Snopes fails to mention the absence of autopsies or university studies; the first things researchers look for in determining the validity of any medical report.  Absent confirming grape-raisin-poisoning autopsies or a definitive study, diagnosis could only have been based on hearsay or a panicky owner’s recollection that, yes, it seemed like the dog might have eaten raisins or grapes.  We are also aware that a careless owner, realizing they failed to prevent the pet (or a child’s) access to genuinely toxic substances, would grasp any straw rather than face self-recrimination or potential legal consequences.


Onions As Poisonous As Grapes?

 Someone named Barbara "killing them with kindness" Mickelson, writing for Snopes, says "chocolate and cocoa can (also) prove deadly to them (dogs) as can onions and macadamia nuts." 


Perhaps, but as with grapes, every breeder I know who makes dog stew ads onions just as I've done for over fifty years.  Maybe cooking makes onions safe and it takes a proportionately large amount as with chocolate, etc etc.  In any case, assuming that raisins would be more toxic than grapes due to the sulphur dioxide or other chemicals used in the curing process, we might believe the vet is correct in stating a dog that actually “ate half a canister of raisins” (or prunes, figs, dates, beef jerky, etc) could be poisoned - if it was a fairly large canister. 


 So we surveyed 130 dog breeders, vets, and professional handlers across the nation.  We asked if they, or anyone they knew, had experienced a case of raisin or grape toxicity.  We expected at least one confirming reply.  After all, millions of dog owners use grapes as treats and according to the “GRAPE ALERTS” now circulating the internet, ingesting even one grape could cause renal failure and death!


Raisin or Grape Poisoning Survey Results

We held this article for two weeks to allow ample time for feedback. Statistically speaking, the results were conclusive.  130 to 0, no one in our survey has ever had or known of a dog that did more than wag and beg for more grapes!


No disrespect to the ASPCA poison control database but TheDogPlace research is based on hundreds of years of professional dog owner experience.  But we aren’t stopping there.  This article will be read by a half million people over the next three months.  We ask if anyone has verifiable information on raisin or grape toxicity, we will add that to a follow-up report and reader comments.  click to report confirmed raisin or grape poisoning


Contrasted to dogs that have died due to (ii) Anti-freeze Poisoning (instant info). contaminated dog food, or even veterinary incompetence, we are forced to conclude that the ASPCA poison control database is incorrect and misleading.


Is There a Conflict Of Interest?  Snopes & ASPCA Poison Control

Even more troubling, no credible report would fail to note that the ASPCA owns the Animal Poison Control Center.  The APCC is an income-producing business. We do not imply that Snopes, APCC or ASPCA would generate or cover up a story for any form of quid pro quo, only that it is a serious lapse in disclosure as practiced by other media outlets.


It should however be noted that, in addition to the Animal Poison Control Center, which charges callers a $60 fee, ASPCA has another enterprise; ASPCA’s Animal Product Safety Service (APSS) for pet product makers.  This means that the ASPCA’s APSS has a close alliance with the dog food corporations whose products have made pets sick.  This quote from TheDogPress is interesting "Dog food and other pet foods continue to make pets sick, yet ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center concludes pet food recalls are “likely not food-related.”


The Animal Poison Control Center release comes at a time when dog owners should be worried about recalled, Counterfeit (ref #1), recycled, Toxic Pet Foods,(ref #2) and the biggest Pet Food Scandal (ref #3) of 2009, not grapes or raisins! Quality Control is sloppy in the human food chain but in animal feeds, Quality Control (ref #4) is alarmingly compromised.


This is all very confusing and has led to yet another Urban Legend because there seems to be a mountain covering a molehill when it comes to documenting deaths caused by grapes.  The lack of medical evidence on raisin or grape toxicity and the inability to define what the toxic substance is causes owners to be distrustful of real warnings.

Even more disturbing, we could find no reference in any Snopes or Poison Control “toxic grape and raisin” report to the likelihood of
(ii) Pesticide Poisoning.  On the contrary, the APCC site displays a puzzling letter from a veterinary toxicologist which states in part, “Why did the fruit cause the dogs to become ill? No one knows. Suspect grapes and raisins have been screened for various pesticides, heavy metals (such as zinc or lead), and mycotoxins (fungal contaminants) and so far, all results have come back negative.”  That leads us right back to the article for which TheDogPlace was attacked.


Pesticide Problem Not Mentioned in Grape Toxicity Report!

When an APCC vet states that grapes caused the dog to become ill even though "no one knows" why, it demands an answer - from Animal Poison Control!  Why doesn't the SPCA sponsor a study to find out?  Even more worrisome, the ASPCA Poison Control directly contradicts the flood of warnings from NIH (National Institute of Health), the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and medical universities which stress washing all fruits and vegetables due to high pesticide contamination.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research and advocacy group, issued a 2007 report in which the pesticide toxicity of fruits and vegetables was ranked according to FDA data. Imported grapes were the 10th most toxic fruit with domestic grapes ranking 21st on the list of 43,000 samples! In addition to that compelling evidence, National Pet Press published a universally accepted list of pesticide contaminated produce and in 2008 The Dog Place published Produce Pesticides. (ref #5)

Therefore, when the ASPCA APCC states that no traces of pesticides could be found on grapes, it stretches logic (and Animal Poison Control Center credibility) to the breaking point. In fact, it is reminiscent of the
(ii) 20/20 Report in which John Stossel asserted that neither organic nor conventional produce samples contained any pesticide residue.  "Someone" gave him a prepared script which somehow, contained someone else's statement (wonder how much that cost produce growers?) and our friend Stossel had to apologize.


A reasonable person would assume that dogs suffering from classic symptoms of chemical poisoning were poisoned by the chemicals sprayed on the fruit rather than the fruit itself.  But someone who checked with Animal Poison Control might well be given information that could jeopardize diagnosis and thus, the dog's life.


A vet working under duress with a dog in critical condition needs instant recall or computerized facts, not misleading information. The emergency treatment for grape poisoning might be the same as for any form of chemical poisoning but misdiagnosis explains why some dogs are reported as having died from grape or raisin poisoning when it fact, the vet was misled.  Given that no component of the grape has ever been identified as toxic to dogs, (tannins have been eliminated) it could be grievously misleading to blame renal failure on grapes rather than toxic sprays, pesticides, or the Lethal Chemicals (ref #6) used to ripen fruit.

In human medicine, this would shout “cover-up” and call for an investigation. Who will speak for the dogs?

We will provide more background information on the National Animal Control Poison Control Center in our next edition. We'll also have a little fun testing your IQ with a question posed to the Vermont Veterinary Association, the strange relationship between anti-freeze and deadly grapes, and other provocative ethics questions which continue to emerge as we dig deeper. 


Side note: since this information was published June 2009, Snopes has changed it's position again.  We also noted a new article dated August 2011, (Raisin The Alarm) which warns that Poison Control says nearly all dogs that eat (even a single serving) develop renal failure.  But the same article also states clinical signs lasted for "several days - sometimes even weeks."  Confusing and contradictory but the message is clear.  Call ASPCA Poison Control!


More on Killer Grapes & Raisins (Pt 2) Background on ASPCA Poison Control changes, etc.



"DIGGER DOG" UNCOVERS DEADLY GRAPES & RAISINS?Dogs Poisoned By Grapes & Raisins? (1) Rationalizing irrationality, the first analysis...

More on Killer Grapes & Raisins (2) Background on ASPCA Poison Control charges..

Readers Report on the Raisin - Grape Debate (3) in no uncertain terms!

Dog Poisoned by Grapes? vets in England never heard of it...

Grape/Raisin Veterinary Info Courtesy of Liz Hassinger, DVM


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