Beware: Grapes and Dogs Don’t Mix

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Archie, a purebred Yorkshire Terrier whose official name is Archie the Wonder Dog, died Tuesday of kidney failure after eating a handful of grapes. (COURTESY of VIKI TEAHAN)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — I’ve learned this late in life to pay attention when the wandering stars align; it’s usually the universe trying to tell us something.

In the past two weeks, the universe has been talking to me about grapes and dogs and danger, so let me tell you the tale of two little dogs – both the lights of their owners’ lives – and five or six grapes.

One of these stories has a happy ending, and one ends sadly. Both serve as warnings for all of us who treasure the wet-nosed friends with whom we share our homes.

One Dog and One Grape: One day last week, my mother called to tell me her little potpourri of doggie parts, a rescue pup named Will, was acting funny. He started having periodic episodes in which his legs went limp and he trembled. My mom had dropped a couple of grapes on the floor in the kitchen earlier that day and Will, all 11 pounds of him, had pounced on one and eaten it before she could get to him to take it away.

She did what we do in this age: She Googled “dogs and grapes.” And she found all the warnings about how grapes and raisins can he harmful to certain dogs.

Happily, little Will made a quick turnaround and was eating, drinking and frolicking normally the next day.

One Dog and Four or Five Grapes: On Monday, Viki Teahan sent me an email with the subject line ‘Dogs and Grapes.’ ” Attached was a photo of a perky little gent with a shiny black nose and a perfectly trimmed beard and mustache. He was Archie the Wonder Dog, her 13-pound Yorkshire Terrier and her family’s pride and joy.

In her email and later when I called her, Teahan told the tale of Archie getting fed four or five grapes off the table three weeks ago by a well-meaning houseguest who gave in to that adorable little face and those big, begging brown eyes.

Teahan didn’t think much about Archie’s treat until he developed diarrhea. After he didn’t get better in 48 hours, she took him to the veterinarian, who diagnosed him with kidney disease. Despite getting hydration, the only thing the vet could do, Archie worsened and went into acute renal failure. He died on Tuesday.

Teahan also turned to the Internet and found all the same warnings my mom did and wondered how she could have had a dog for nine years and never heard about the toxicity of grapes and raisins to dogs.

The Journal’s own pet health columnist, veterinarian Jeff Nichol, actually warned of the grape danger back in 2006.

This is some of what he said: “Grapes and raisins (dehydrated grapes) are poisonous to the kidneys of some dogs. The toxic mechanism isn’t fully understood; the problem has only been recognized since the mid-1990s.

“Here is what we do know: Grapes and raisins of all colors and varieties can cause acute kidney failure in dogs. While there have been no confirmed feline cases, it is believed that cats may also be susceptible.” He continued: “Grape poisoning is serious business. Not every dog is predisposed and those who are have their own toxic threshold.”

The Internet (being the Internet) also leads one to the grape toxicity debunkers, mostly comment boards with people weighing in that they have fed their dogs grapes or raisins with no ill effects.

I have, too, to bigger dogs who showed no health problems as a result. Rather than argue about whether I was right, I’d rather take the vets’ warnings to heart and play it safe from now on.

In her email to me, the one with the photo that accompanies this piece, Teahan said, she has talked to many dog owners who knew chocolate and antifreeze could kill dogs, but had never heard the grape and raisin warning.

“Perhaps this adorable face would prompt a few readers to read,” Teahan said, “and our mistake would not be in vain if I can inform just one pet owner.”

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor. — This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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