When scare tactics create income and a manufactured myth shields incompetence, it raises questions to which veterinary research provides stunning answers on grape poisoning.
GRAPES poison dogs?
SNOPES & ASPCA POISON CONTROL URBAN LEGEND?
Snopes and ASPCA Poison Control say grapes are deadly to dogs but breeder survey unequivocally refutes that.
Even though poisoning is much more likely to be from medication, lawn or household chemicals (including pesticides) than from human food, including raisins and grapes, animal poison control suggests otherwise!
Animal 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 and provided pesticide toxicity ratings. Several indignant emails referred us to the "deadly grapes" warning on Snopes which refers readers to 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 canine 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 strange given the internet hype over poisonous raisins and grapes. If something so common can so easily kill so many dogs, why would the vet schools not research it? Why wouldn't some enterprising veterinary student do a thesis on something so deadly and so easily documented?
It was then brought to our attention that there is no profitable prevention, prescription or antidote to raisin-grape poisoning. Well! That explains that but it doesn’t explain how the urban legend began or why it hasn’t been debunked until now. First though, a quick but clarifying background story.
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 veterinarian's personal assessment, a brief dissertation written by someone with no listed veterinary credentials, and interestingly, numerous references back to APCC (Animal Poison Control Center) which is apparently owned by the ASPCA.
(Editor's note: Feb. 22, 2011: We had reason to check the Snopes website today. The original Snopes article we previously referenced, downloaded and printed out in June 2009 had been rapidly and substantially re-worded.)
Snopes fails to mention any university studies - the first thing researchers look for in determining the validity of any medical report. Absent confirming grape-raisin-poisoning autopsies or a single 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 known 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." Onions? Every breeder I know adds onions to dog stew just as I've done for over fifty years. Maybe cooking makes onions safe and it takes a proportionately large amount?
In any case, assuming that raisins would be more toxic than grapes due to the sulphur dioxide and other chemicals used in the curing process, we might believe the veterinarian is correct in stating a dog that actually “ate half a canister of raisins” (or prunes, figs, dates, beef jerky, etc) could be poisoned - depending on the size of the canister. On that basis, we surveyed dog breeders, veterinarians, 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
The results were absolutely conclusive. 130 to 0, not one professional breeder, handler or veterinarian 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 request anyone who has verifiable study information or first-hand experience click to report confirmed raisin or grape poisoning and we will add that to a follow-up report and reader comments.
Contrasted to dogs that have died from ii Anti-freeze Poisoning, contaminated dog food, or even veterinary incompetence, we must conclude that the ASPCA poison control database is incorrect and misleading. So why would poison control perpetuate an "urban legend", especially one that seems to have been deliberately created in order to profit a private enterprise?
Conflict Of Interest: Snopes and ASPCA Poison Control?
No credible report would fail to note the ASPCA owns the Animal Poison Control Center. In 1996 the ASPCA acquired the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) call 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 also 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. Think about this: ASPCA has a close alliance with the dog food corporations whose products have made pets sick. TheDogPress stated "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.” By the end of 2009, the news had been spread across the internet.
The Animal Poison Control Center release comes at a time when dog owners should be worried about Counterfeit Pet Food[1|, recycled Toxic Pet Foods[2|, and the biggest Pet Food Scandal of 2009[3| which is not grapes or raisins! 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.”
Pesticide Problem Not Mentioned in Grape Toxicity Report!
When an APCC veterinarian 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! 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. 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 veterinarian 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 dogs can be reported as having died from grape or raisin poisoning when it fact, the veterinarian made an incorrect assumption. Misdiagnosis usually leads to improper treatment and after the fact, distressed owners don't insist on necropsy!
Given that no component of the grape has ever been identified as toxic to dogs, (tannins have been eliminated) it is grievously misleading to blame renal failure on grapes rather than toxic sprays, pesticides, or the lethal chemicals used to ripen fruit. Grapes are often imported from Chile where it is legal to fumigate with methyl bromide to kill bugs and fungi. Now you know why you are advised to wash all grapes before eating OR giving as a treat for your dog. When grapes are dried and treated to make raisins, the chemicals become even more concentrated. We do therefore suggest that raisins are not recommended for dog treats and indeed, dogs are not keen about raisins.
In human medicine, this would shout “cover-up” and call for an investigation but it has not come from veterinarians. No demands from ASPCA or Animal Poison Control. Does anyone speak for the dogs?
Side note: since this information was published June 2009, Snopes and some veterinary websites cite ASPCA Animal Poison Control which says nearly all dogs that eat "even a single serving" develop renal failure. The message is clear; call ASPCA Poison Control and pay up!
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