Monday, November 12, 2012

“Raisin” Awareness: A common food you might not have known is potentially toxic to your dog.

It seems a little random, I know, but did you know that grapes (and their dried counterpart, raisins) can be very harmful to dogs? I was surprised to find this out when I first got Leopold (and consequently delved into the world of dog knowledge!).

Grapes contain a toxin that can cause the kidneys to fail in some dogs, which will lead to death if untreated. This does not happen in all dogs and I’ve heard many stories about people who feed their dogs grapes all the time without observable consequences. I imagine that, just like humans, tolerance to certain foods varies from dog to dog. Unfortunately, some dogs have dangerous reactions to consuming grapes and raisins, and this fruit has been known to cause the untimely death of many canines. The risk is high enough that the general advice is to just not give your dog grapes and raisins at all.

What can happen if a dog eats grapes or raisins?
A dog might start to have some gastrointestinal upset including vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, and in some cases lethargy and depression. Following that, a dog’s kidneys can start to fail (acute renal failure). Renal failure is very serious and will lead to death if left untreated.

Why does this happen?
As someone who is forever interested in the mechanistic components involved in everything, I’ve been looking into what exactly it is about grapes that are bad. Unfortunately, like many topics I research online, information varies. On the boards, I found some that say it’s only the seed (“My vet told me…blah blah blah”), some say it’s the skin. Many published resources say it is an “unknown” toxin. Basically, they just don’t know yet what about the grape causes the problem. What IS known is that sometimes grapes can cause a dog to go into renal failure and die. Personally, I’d rather not take the risk and I don’t ever give my dogs grapes or raisins. The way I see it, there are lots of other yummy treats available (blueberries, for example) that are known to be safe and even healthy. So why risk it?

What should you do if your dog eats grapes or raisins?
Take them to the vet! Right away! I’ve seen more than a few dogs come into the emergency clinic because they ingested raisins or grapes. When we have a dog come in that has eaten grapes or raisins, we generally try to induce vomiting if the grapes/raisins have been eaten within the past few hours. We once had a pair come in that had gotten into some holiday cinnamon-raisin bread (which was particularly disgusting because the cinnamon made the vomit smell delicious. Bleh!). We also sometimes feed the dog a substance that soaks up any toxins that might still be in the dog’s gut, and we monitor blood chemistry to help evaluate kidney function.

Grapes may be a tasty treat for humans, but they’re best left out of your dog’s diet.

McKnight, Katrina. (2005). "Grape and Raisin Toxicity in Dogs" (PDF). Veterinary Technician: 135–136. retrieved 06.25.2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Humpty hump and canine hierarchy.

I was at the dog park today during a time when it was hopping!  (Literally, as there were some dogs so happy to play that they were hopping around!)

One reason I love going to the dog park, aside from the satisfaction of getting to see Leopold and Halo be so utterly free and happy, is that I get to talk to other owners.  Dogs really do bring all sorts of people together, which I love.  Today on two separate accounts I witnessed owners remark on the significance humping—both owners commenting on the sexuality involved in the act.  One was saying that she had her dog neutered recently so she figured he’d stop humping, and the other owner assumed it was a male hormone-related behavior.

Humping is actually a dominance-related behavior (unless, of course, there is actually mating going on…).  But under normal circumstance, the humping behavior is just one dog telling another that they’re “top dog”.  Even females partake in this declaration of doggy hierarchy.  Halo has humped Leopold on more than one occasion to assert her dominance.  Because this sort of humping has nothing to do with procreation, spaying and neutering isn’t going to stop the behavior.  Leopold was neutered before he was even ten weeks old; and he humped at least four dogs today at the dog park. 

Though, I should say he tried, as I shooed him off all the dogs he was attempting to assert his dominance over…  I, personally, don’t like my dogs to partake in that behavior for a couple reasons.  The first being that it’s a little embarrassing because, come on, my dog is humping someone else’s dog…. And some owners don’t understand what the behavior really means and instead think my dog is being inappropriate.  The other reason is that some dogs REALLY don’t like being humped and get very angry at any dog that tries.  From what I’ve seen, it seems like humping is a very insistent assertion of dominance, and some dogs really don’t respond well to that.  Leopold has made a couple of dogs angry this way, which is never good.

Interestingly, asserting dominance by humping isn’t just a canine behavior.  Rabbits also partake in the activity.  I was once bunny-sitting for some friends and witnessed it first hand.  The smaller, female rabbit asserted her dominance over the much larger male by humping his head.  Ha!  It was quite funny to watch because the female was so much smaller.

Whether you want to shoo your dog off of others is up to you, but it’s good to know the motivation behind the humping behavior—as some dog fights can start when one dog over-steps its bounds when trying to assert its dominance over another.