May 16, 2017

Leah’s Close Call: A Handful of Grapes Nearly Cost One Dog Her Life

Leah during a visit from her family, who brought her favorite toy to the AAH.
Leah during a visit from her family, who brought her favorite toy to the AAH.

Wendy Donaldson recalls the day her pint-sized dog Leah made a huge mistake.

“We were watching TV, and my son was snacking on red grapes,” recalls Wendy.  “Then I noticed that Leah was eating them as well.”

She took the grapes away from Leah, but the next day, the five-month-old Pekingese/Pomeranian-mix vomited and had diarrhea.  The usually peppy dog was also lethargic.

Wendy consulted her computer, searching “grapes and dogs,” and learned that grapes can be poisonous.

Indeed, ingestion of grapes and raisins has been associated with acute renal failure in dogs, and cats may also be affected. While it’s unclear as to what exactly causes the toxicity, even a small amount can prove to be fatal.  Wendy estimates Leah had eaten about 10 grapes.

Wendy then reached out to a family member, who recommended she take Leah to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) in Manhattan. 

Leah visiting with her family
Adriana Petrucco, an animal care technician at the AAH, brought Leah into an exam room while she was hospitalized to visit Wendy and Matthew.

Following bloodwork and an exam, Dr. Anna Whitehead, a veterinarian, diagnosed acute renal failure in Leah and started treatment with IV fluids and gastro protectants.

“She was exhibiting signs of blood poisoning due to her elevated kidney values,” Dr. Whitehead says.  “We were guarded as to the outcome of her treatment but proceeded aggressively.”

Leah remained at the ASPCA for a week. Each day, she showed improvement, and on the third day, Wendy and her five-year-old son, Matthew, visited her in the hospital.

During their 45-minute visit, Matthew embraced and kissed Leah. He even brought along her favorite “Flower the Skunk” stuffed toy.    

Leah with Matthew.
Leah with Matthew.

“I used to have a German shepherd who ate everything,” Wendy tells us. “But Leah is very finicky. So we were surprised she actually liked the grapes.”

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center  (APCC) received 3,722 calls, or cases, involving grapes and raisins in 2016—out of a total of 180,639 total cases that year—and compiled the 10 toxins most commonly ingested by pets.  Number three on the list, just behind human prescription medications and over-the-counter products, are human foods, which include grapes, raisins, onions and garlic, among others. Dogs especially tend to ingest human foods more than cats.

“The problem with grapes and raisins is that we don’t know which animals are going to develop kidney failure, and if we wait, the animal may not make it,” says Dr. Tina Wismer, Medical Director of the APCC.  “With most of our calls, the exposure has just occurred and the pet is quickly decontaminated and treated.”

Dr. Wismer adds that only one grape/raisin toxicity case in 2016 resulted in death because the dog didn’t see a vet until three days after the exposure.

At the ASPCA Animal Hospital, 62 toxicity cases—including human foods, marijuana, lilies, and even pennies—have been treated since January 2016.

“Some dogs can eat a bag of raisins or a handful of grapes and be fine,” says Dr. Maren Krafchik, another veterinarian at the AAH. “But others can eat just one grape and get sick.”

Wendy and Matthew with Leah
Wendy and Matthew with Leah at the AAH.

Since her close call, Leah is back home in Queens with her family, which includes Matthew’s 14-year-old brother, Christopher, Wendy’s husband, Julio Rocha, and a goldfish named Lucas.  Her kidney values are still elevated, but her family and veterinarians continue to monitor her closely.