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by Barbara J. Andrews and Nel Liquorman


Dogs are 10,000 times more likely to die in surgery than by "Killer Grapes" but most raisin and grape toxicity reports are referred to the National Animal Poison Control Center, at $60 per call.


The Animal Poison Control Center was a free service started by a veterinarian and his students at the University of Illinois. In 1990 Paul Harvey gave out the phone number on his radio show and for the first time, a small per-call fee was instituted.


In 1996 the ASPCA acquired the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) {Ref #1} call center and began charging $60 per call.  ASPCA is a New York City charitable organization, not connected with your local “SPCA”.


Grape Poisoning Profit

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center aggressively marketed its database. If a dog is presented with symptoms that a veterinarian recalls match those associated with “killer grapes” the vet will ask if the dog could have eaten grapes. A distraught, confused owner may well answer “yes, he could have” and thus, it is dutifully recorded as another grape-raisin poisoning which was the big story at the time.


The horror is that if your dog was having an adverse reaction to medication or a vaccine, it could die due to inappropriate treatment.  Even good vets make bad mistakes and beloved pets have died because veterinarians were misled ... or because veterinarians did not want to defend against a lawsuit for something they gave the dog.


The result was that many veterinarians simply hospitalized and treated for “grape and raisin poisoning.” Thus the case becomes another incorrect statistic with which other vets and dog owners may be misled.


While our researchers found numerous reports of renal failure in dogs thought to have eaten raisins or grapes, not one single report confirmed that grapes caused the toxic reaction {Ref #2}. All either cited the APCC database as the basis for diagnosis or as in this report from the CABI Abstract, reports stated that the pathogenesis (origin) and nephrotoxicity (poisonous effect) was unknown, i.e. “This is the first report of clinical signs, treatment, and clinical outcome in dogs that developed renal failure after ingestion of raisins or grapes. The pathogenesis of nephrotoxicity associated with raisins and grapes remains unknown. Outcome was favorable in 2 out of the 4 cases of acute renal failure associated with raisin or grape ingestion in these dogs.


Pounding The Poisonous Grape

Some reports from otherwise credible sources were downright silly in citing the APCC information, to wit, this from the Companion Animal Newsletter and OK State veterinary newsletter,According to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, the amount of grapes or raisins consumed that can cause toxicity varies from a pound of grapes to just a single serving of raisins and canine cases of grape/raisin toxicity have been reported all over the United States.”


A pound of grapes would give a 200 pound human diarrhea for a week! On the other hand, APCC says a single grape can cause renal failure. Equally ridiculous. The statement implies widespread raisin/grape toxicity but that is patently untrue. The Animal Poison Control Center has no answer!


Have any other species been poisoned as is implied by “canine cases”? No answers.


Killer grapes” is a classic example of “give a fool a fable and it becomes a fact” by virtue of repetition. It might be funny were it not making fools of good vets and causing dog owners to withhold a natural treat loved by most dogs. Of course (!) grapes are thoroughly rinsed before being eaten - any sprays would have already been washed off but by the time you see them grapes have already been handled by multiple packers, truckers, shipping handlers and grocery store employees.


Test your gullibility with this example of Veterinary Overstatement by the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association {Ref #3} editorial emphasis added.


Q: I recently heard that I should not give my dog grapes or raisins, as this could be fatal. Is this true?

A: Yes, it is. According to the National Animal Poison Control Center, pets may be very sensitive to an unknown chemical in grapes, raisins, or juice/wine made from grapes. The toxic dose of grape products can be as low as 0.1 mg/kg (or 0.046mg/lb), which means less than one grape or raisin may be poisonous to a 10 pound dog. Older or sick animals are the most susceptible. Symptoms usually start with vomiting, diarrhea and/or depression. In the animal hospital, several blood tests values will be affected, especially kidney function tests. Without intensive supportive therapy, death from kidney failure usually occurs within one to four days.


Of course dogs suspected of being poisoned must have tests, regardless of expense. But facts matter. In our non-veterinarian opinion, we hope dog owners will encourage veterinarians to verify the following:


1.) The number and frequency of and the basis for suspecting grape poisoning as opposed to known chemical toxins used to treat the grapes to protect them from insects, birds, etc. See Adverse Drug Reactions {Ref #4}


2.) APCC states the minimum toxic dose of grapes in dogs is approximately 0.3 oz/kg body weight… 2 grapes/kg body weight. Unintentionally I'm sure, that implies a Mastiff-size dog could ingest more grapes (300) than a human of comparable size! Since my dogs lose interest after 5 to 10 grapes, I am not concerned but we challenge APCC’s assertion regarding dosage as guesswork such as embarrassed John Stossel in this instant information on ii 20/20 Report


3.) If the number and frequency of renal failures put forth by APCC (Animal Poison Control Center) is accurate, why hasn’t a veterinary university done a study? Is it because there is no marketable vaccine, medication, or antidote for “grape” poisoning or is it because there is no evidence with which to indict the grape and thereby motivate a clinical trial?


4.) And lastly, does this whole scenario set up a situation for intense veterinary hospitalization, extensive testing, and expensive treatment based on a false diagnosis which no grateful dog owner will question?


Grape Logic & Raisin Reason

I am not a veterinarian but I have, for over half a century, conducted real-life clinical trials with real dogs, none of which have ever suffered any adverse effects from eating grapes. To be specific, I’ve fed unwashed grapes to my dogs which have varied in size from 100 pound Akitas to 5 pound Toy Fox Terriers.


This leads me to the inescapable conclusion that the dogs taken to veterinary clinics were owned by heartless people who starved them so badly that the dogs overdosed on grapes!


It should be noted that wild grapes are part of a natural diet for foxes, wolves, coyotes, and bears. Even sprayed, commercially raised grapes are stolen by various carnivores and birds and we must assume, to no ill effects. Do not however confuse grapes with raisins. Raisins are preserved with sulfur dioxide and other chemicals.


If grapes are found in a dog’s stomach that died from “poison” it is statistically more likely that it is coincidence and the dog was inadvertently poisoned by household chemicals, ii Anti-freeze Poisoning or suffered an Adverse Drug Reaction {ref #4} that is (inadvertently or deliberately) overlooked at the veterinarian's office.


This is in no way meant to detract from conscientious, caring vets who accept what they assume is scientific evidence nor is it meant to demean the good work done by the ASPCA. We just wonder if anyone at APCC has ever owned a dog much less given it grapes?


This first report by went out to over 19,000 subscribers and within 30 days was read by more than 20,000 interested dog owners. We received only one report of a dog's death by grapes, over two hundred emails of grapes routinely given as treats, and nearly one hundred reports of veterinary negligence and/or malpractice unrelated to grapes.


Please, if you have a confirmed report of grape toxicity or can add to this discussion, email the editor.


Reference and Related Article Information:

{1} Animal Poison Control Center - PetCare or call (888) 426-4435

{2} Merck Veterinary Manual, the Vet’s “bible” says this about renal failure thought to have been caused by grapes, Diagnosis is based on history of exposure, along with clinical signs. Other causes of renal failure (eg, ethylene glycol, cholecalciferol) should be considered in the differential diagnosis.

{3} Vermont Veterinary Medical Association

{4} Adverse Drug & Vaccine Reactions, the 4th-6th most common cause of death in HUMANS! Get the facts. EST 1998 © Jun 2009 150816072306



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