Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sour Grapes

Mommy, I feel sick.
For the past month, two-year-old Katie, one of our Cavalier King Charles Spaniels,  has had sporadic bouts of unexplained vomiting.  

Although her activity level and appetite and even her bowel pattern remained completely normal, in between eating and playing, Katie has had several episodes where she brought up large amounts of basically nothing… clear liquid and little flecks of nothing recognizable, but nothing that looked suspicious or problematic either. 

Typically, she will come in from playing outside, be very quiet for a while, and then without any warning, vomit once or several times.  

We hadn’t been able to identify a cause or a pattern, and once she vomits, she is generally back to her normal self, appetite and all.   In fact, more than once, she raced right back outside to play, rolling around in the grass or playing "chase" with the other dogs.

She was scheduled for her annual routine physical examination with our family veterinarian three weeks ago.

Although she had not vomited in the two days preceding the appointment, I mentioned it to the vet as it had happened often enough to be concerning.

He checked her over pretty carefully and found her to be in excellent health with no sign of a problem.  He was as mystified as we were and told me to call if she had any further problems, but he found nothing at all abnormal or unusual in her examination or lab work.

The answer came unexpectedly when I was out photographing the briar patch last week.   The golden raspberries are ripening and I wanted to get some photographs.   The dogs went out with me and were running and playing under foot, all except for Katie, that is.

When I noticed she wasn’t with the others, I went to check and found her under the grape arbor, standing on tippy toes, snagging clusters of grapes off the vines.   Suddenly, everything made sense.

I scooted her out of the arbor and into the house.  Just inside the door, she vomited up clear fluid and essentially whole grapes.   That was followed by another round of vomiting a half hour later,  with nothing showing in her gastric contents at that point. Clearly, I had my answer.

Grapes and raisins have long been known to be poisonous to dogs.   The earliest sign of a toxic effect from eating grapes is vomiting, and if the dog continues to eat grapes or ingests a large number of grapes, symptoms can progress rapidly and dramatically as kidney failure develops.

The toxicity caused by grapes and raisins can be serious - even lethal.  While one grape is probably not going to be an issue for any dog,  you certainly don't want your dog to develop a fondness for them.   And if they do have a penchant for them, it's one habit you want to nip in the bud.

Katie is a gulper and I think the fact that she didn't really chew them much if at all was her saving grace.   The miracle is that her tummy rejected the grapes almost as soon as she would eat them.   She was probably vomiting the grapes outside before she ever made it indoors, since we never saw any grapes or grape fragments at all in what she brought up before that instance.

It's  exceedingly fortunate that given the number of grapes she was eating, she never developed any other acute gastrointestinal symptoms or signs of kidney involvement.

Steve and I clipped all of the grapes that were within her reach and carefully raked up and picked up the stragglers that had been knocked to the ground by birds and squirrels.   

Prior to this year, none of our dogs ever gave the grape arbor much thought.   They love other fruits and will nibble on strawberries and blueberries and figs, but none of them have ever shown any interest at all in the grapes or any of the other wild berries that the birds like to eat.

Until recently, the grapes that have been produced have been high enough on the lattice to be completely out of their reach.   This year, we added some new vines that produced some low growing sweet green grapes. 

We’ve resolved the problem for the time being, but we will be alert to this in the future.   We are planning on putting a short fence around the arbor in the spring.  At the very least, we will be sure the vines are tied up and that grapes are out of reach,  but a short fence is an inexpensive extra pound of prevention.

When we were shopping earlier in the season, we saw some pretty metal fence sections that have stakes that push into the ground.  That would be an effective, decorative solution.  These dogs are very short and  even a 12-18 inch fence is an adequate barrier.  It's something we can easily step over, but it will keep them safely away from any grapes that might fall on the ground.

Determined not to miss out on her current favorite treat, she snuck over to the arbor and headed straight for where she hoped to find some grapes.   We had been watching where she headed and gave her a stern warning to stay away.

We've had to monitor her carefully, but after three days of being sent up to the deck or brought into the house every time she went near the arbor, she finally has decided that it is probably a good idea to stay away from that corner of the yard.   We don't dare let our guard down though; grape toxicity is nothing to fool with in dogs.

My mom is such a meanie!
She’s not happy that we’ve come between her and the mother-lode of sweet, and her facial expression says it all.

There is no question that the phytonutrients in brightly colored fruits and vegetables are beneficial antioxidants that serve a protective function in both humans and dogs.  But like chocolate, grapes and raisins are definitely off the menu for our furkids, much to Miss Katie’s dismay.

This experience brought us up short.  We are generally pretty  careful pet parents but she was so stealthy, she escaped detection for quite a while.  
But that reminded me that not everything in the garden is either appetizing or safe to eat.   While the birds might be enjoying the berries of the bittersweet, that is another berry that would not be healthy for Katie to snack on.   Before she even got the idea to sample the colorful berries, I went  around the yard, pulling up the bittersweet and relegating it to the compost pile. The birds who enjoy the fruit can get it there, but I don't want Katie to decide to try that as well!

If I were only just a little bit taller.... I can dream, can't I?
But Mom, I was only looking at them. I wasn't going to try to eat any more, honest! It's not fair to make me sit on the deck!


  1. I'm so glad you were able to find the problem. It's disconcerting when one's pets are sick. Katie has such an expressive face albeit a disgruntled one!

  2. Thankfully you found the problem in time as dogs do die from grape poisoning. Glad she is looking so well.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  3. so glad you found the cause of the problem, children and pets can be such a worry, she is a beautiful dog and I love her expressions so sweet, I didn't know they were bad for dogs or any animal, so much to learn and look out for, Frances

  4. I didn't know that eating grapes can be dangerous to dogs. Luckily the problem was discovered early. Katie is so cute but it looks like she also misses the grapes. Poor gal.

  5. I'm glad Katie is well now. I've fed my pom raisins before. He was barely moving for the next few hours. I quickly did a search and discovered that raisins and grapes are toxic to dogs.

    It's strange that Katie seems to look longingly at the grapes although it makes her sick.

    Thanks for bringing this up. I'm growing grapes too but so far it hasn't bear fruits yet.

  6. Oh these unruly children. LOL! I am glad you found out what was causing her stomach problems.It is hard to determine sometimes what is bothering them. I guess like little children who cannot tell you what is wrong. So we worry about our four legged ones too. She looks like she really would like a grape though. LOL!

  7. I have an inert Dog Blog that I mean to get up and running along with my garden blog.......waiting for puppy born this week, coming to us in December

  8. Thank goodness you found out in time. Dogs seem to want many of the things that are not good for them..hmmm. Sounds like me too!!

  9. Lucky you were observant. My husband had a dog that loved grapes. You have o wonder why they choose certain things to obsess on.

  10. Such a pretty girl, and a fascinating post.

  11. Cathy and Steve,

    Glad you were able to discover the problem. Katie has such wonderful facial expressions. Having dogs around is sometimes like having toddlers around. You have to put everything out of reach. We had an episode with our dog and chocolate once. Luckily, she did not ingest enough to really hurt her, but she was quite sick for a day. Before I plant anything, I always check to see if it is poisonous to dogs. If it is, I don't plant it areas of the yard that the dog will use. I was taught that by an animal rescue organization.

  12. cute! It is so fortunate that you were able to identify the problem and quickly, too. She is so adorable.

  13. Thank goodness you found the cause before it became a serious issue - and thank you for reminding us how careful we need to be to keep our other children" healthy and happy.

  14. Good detective work! This year I have harvested all our grapes before they could fall. Max likes them just enough to be a little worry, but our arbors all tower over him. Dogs can be so silly.

  15. I'm glad all is well with her. Badgers came in our polytunnel and ate about half our grapes this year.

  16. I didn't know this about grapes and raisins. I'm so glad you found out what was causing Katie to vomit.

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