Grapes And Raisins May Cause Renal Failure In Dogs And Cats

Many of the foods humans enjoy are not good for pets and some are quite harmful.  Raisins and grapes are in this category.  Although the toxic principle has not been identified, it appears that the flesh of raisins and grapes contains a poison that causes renal failure in dogs and cats.  After ingestion, the animal develops high blood calcium levels that leads to acute renal failure.  Once renal failure develops, the prognosis is poor even with therapy.

If your pet ingests grapes or raisins, seek veterinary care immediately.  Although not all dogs are susceptible, I always ere on the cautious side and place the patient on intravenous fluids to protect the kidneys.  If the patient’s blood analysis looks good after two days of therapy, I breathe a (still cautious) sigh of relief.  

I never used to worry about this toxicity in cats, because I never thought a cat would eat a grape or a raisin.  Well, I was wrong.  I now know of at least one cat who ate raisins and became ill.  Please keep grapes and raisins in a secure location to prevent any accidents from occurring.  A special note for dachshund owners, dachshunds seem to love grapes so please make sure they do not have access to them.

New Federal Website For Reporting Adverse Reactions To Animal Food And Drugs

On May 24th, 2010 the Food and Drug Administrations teamed up with the National Institutes of Health to launch a new website called the Safety Reporting Portal.  The site is designed to allow veterinarians and pet owners to report adverse reactions to pet food and treats.  It also allows manufacturers of animal drugs to report adverse reactions to their products. 

I applaud the decision to allow electronic reporting of adverse events.  I hope it will speed up the process.  In the past, adverse events often required filling out reports for multiple agencies.  Then it took a prolonged period of time for the mail to actually reach the intended agency.  This is a result of the anthrax scare from many years ago.  Hopefully, this new system will allow the FDA and NIH to identify problems quickly and disseminate information to the veterinary and pet owner population in rapid fashion.    

Although I am in favor of electronic reporting, I have to warn you that the site is awkward to navigate.  I would start with the FAQ’s page at, then explore from there.  The animal section contains a lot of great information although it often takes a little effort to find what you want.        

Great News For Pete The Moose

Great news, Pete the Moose has been given a new lease on life thanks to the Vermont state legislature and the untiring efforts of many people.  As you may recall, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife ordered the preserve in which Pete lives to close or euthanize Pete and the other animals.   In their infinite wisdom, they thought there was a potential for disease transmission between the wild animals and captive raised elk.  Specifically, they feared the captive raised elk might infect other animals with tuberculosis or chronic wasting disease.  Thankfully, the Vermont legislature went to work and declared the animals at Big Rack Ridge preserve a “special purpose herd” which transfers oversight of the animals from Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife to the Vermont Agriculture Agency.  The new agency, in an ode to common sense, requires new fencing be built to prevent mixing of wild animals with the animals in the preserve. 

Thank you to everyone who helped save Pete!  It is great to know that in America, a grass roots campaign on behalf of an innocent animal can still make a difference.  I also want to thank the Vermont State Legislature for crafting this creative solution.  

Summer Travel With Pets

With Memorial day right around the corner, people are planning their summer getaways.  Some will go to the beach to frolic in the surf.  Others will head to the mountains for a relaxing hike.  And many will head to their cabins on the lake for undisturbed family time.  If you plan on bringing your pets, it is important to prepare now to insure the entire family has a wonderful time.

First, make sure your pet is current on all of their preventative health care needs including vaccinations, heartworm preventative and flea and tick control.  In my experience, rest stops, parks and public areas are often contaminated with potential pathogens from other pets as well as wild animals. For example, raccoons carry a roundworm called Baylisascaris that causes horrible disease if ingested by humans or dogs.  Please avoid racoon latrines, that’s a fancy term for a pile of racoon feces usually found at the base of a tree. It is critical that you stay vigilant in public areas.    

Second, check with local clinics and media sources to see if there are any special health concerns in the area.  According to the Lee county Domestic Animal Services, Lee County in Florida has seen an unusually large number of dogs infected with parvovirus.  They report concentrations in the Cape Coral and North Fort Myers area.  I love that area of Florida but sadly can not recommend traveling in this county with a puppy or any dog who is not current on vaccinations or suffers from immunosuppression.  

Third, collect all the documents required for travel.  I always recommend bringing a copy of your pet’s vaccination history with you just in case the pet accidentally scratches or nips.  Your veterinarian has vaccination booklets called “Pet Passports” that contain all of this information in a convenient folder. It is small and fits nicely into a glove compartment or purse.  Highlight anything your pet is allergic too as well as chronic medical conditions.  Be sure to have Benadryl or other medications your pet might need.

Last, make sure your contact information is clearly displayed on your pet’s collar.  If your pet is microchipped, have your veterinarian scan the chip to verify it still works.  Then call the company to update your contact information with current mobile numbers and e-mail addresses.  If you are in an area without cell coverage, designate an emergency contact person who knows how to contact you.

The human-animal bond is powerful.  I know many of you would not think of leaving the pets behind.  Prepare thoughtfully and you will have a magnificent time . . . and so will your pet!

Cassidy, McKenzie, “Officials concerned about increased number of parvovirus cases:  Illness can prove fata in dogs.”, May 13, 2010.

Coated With Fur Video

Two weeks ago, I met with the video professionals at Master Video Disc and Design.  My hope was for them to create an interesting trailer for the new book.  They dug into my image archives with zest.  Rocky and Janita took the raw materials I gave them and created a wonderful short video clip.  They are also a joy to work with.  They exceeded my expectations so it is fun to share their work with you now.  Enjoy and please share your feedback!


Best Glucometer For Testing Diabetic Dogs And Cats

With more people wanting to test their pet’s blood sugar at home, I am often asked the following question: Can I use my human glucometer to measure my pet’s blood sugar level?  The answer is a definite maybe.

In my experience, the most common glucometer used in veterinary practice is the Alpha Trak by Abbott.  This unit is designed specifically for animals – cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, rats and mice.  Each batch of test strips comes with a code that is entered into the unit to help insure the accuracy of the results.  It requires 0.6 microliters of blood which is easily obtained from most animals.  

There are many other glucometers including the One Touch Ultra, Reli On Micro, Ascencia Contour, Accucheck Aviva and the Freestyle that some people use on animals even though they were designed for humans.  Before using any of these devices, I strongly recommend testing it for accuracy.  Draw enough blood from the animal to perform a blood glucose curve on the new device as well as the veterinary hospital’s blood analyzer. Compare the results, i.e. blood glucose curves and pay special attention to the extremes i.e., high and low blood sugar levels, as this seems to be where the greatest differences occur.  

No matter what kind of glucometer you have, I strongly recommend checking it against a reliable machine at least every six months to make sure it is still working properly.  Never change your pet’s insulin dosage without speaking to your veterinarian first.  I know I sound like a broken record on this, but I had a client kill their pet with an insulin overdose.  Watching that cat suffer and die left an indelible mark.  Work collaboratively with your veterinarian to make sure this does not happen to your pet.  

Orthopedic Conditions In Dogs

This is Susie, a beautiful black Labrador Retriever.  Like most labs, Susie has energy to burn.  She races from room to room, looking for new toys or other objects to chew.  Her shiny black coat, great confirmation and personality make her a hit with everyone she meets.  After all, who could resist her sweet face.

Unfortunately, labs are prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and several other orthopedic conditions.  What can Susie’s owner do now to prevent or lesson these conditions?  Note; although focused on labs in this example, this applies to all dog breeds.

Diagnosis:  Restrict her caloric intake.  No fat puppies!

Scientific studies demonstrate that overweight puppies, labs included, are more prone to developing orthopedic problems.  In a study lead by Dr. Kealy, a group of lab puppies who were genetically prone to hip dysplasia were divided into two groups.  The first group was free-fed as much food as they wanted each day.  The second group was given 25% less food per day than the first group.  At two years of age, the first group suffered from osteoarthritis of the hip joints with more severity than the second group.  Dr. Kealy continued to follow these dogs through time.  The first group suffered from greater osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, shoulder and elbow at 5 and 8 years of life than did their counterparts.

To help prevent arthritis it is important to keep your dog, especially puppies, in good weight.  Although pudgy pups are cute, it is not good for their long-term health.  Keep your dogs in shape like the beautiful lab pictured above.  This gives them the best chance of a long, pain-free life.


Kealy, RD et al, Five year longitudinal study on limited food consumption and development of osteoarthritis in coxofemoral joints of dogs. JAVMA 1997, 210(2) : 222-5.

Kealy, RD et al, Evalluation of the effect of limited food consumption on radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis in dogs, JAMVA 2000, 217(11): 1678-1680.

Insulin Therapy For Dogs

Insulin is classified based on duration of effect.  Regular or crystalline insulin reaches its peak effect quickly, usually around four hours after administration.  I use it in the clinic to drop glucose levels quickly in patients with uncontrolled diabetes.  It is important to monitor blood glucose levels closely while using this insulin.

Once the blood glucose falls into the normal range, I switch to an insulin that will be used to maintain the patient at home.  For dogs, this usually requires an insulin that has an intermediate effect like NPH (Isophane) insulin.  In most dogs, NPH last 8 to 12 hours so the dog will require twice per day injections.  I start with a low dose and slowly increase based upon the dog’s response. 

The last category are the long-acting insulins, protamine zinc and glargine.  These insulins last a long time.  Sometimes so long, that they may cause a Symogi effect if not monitored carefully.  These types of insulin work well in cats, but not as well in dogs.

Most of my canine diabetic patients maintain the best on a product called Vetsulin made by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health.  The company combined two different insulins, a short-acting amorphous insulin with a long-acting porcine zinc insulin, to give great glycemic control.  Unfortunately, there have been manufacturing problems with Vetsulin and currently, the company recommends transitioning patients to other forms of insulin.  I hope the problems are overcome quickly, as I really like this product.

No matter what type of insulin your dog is on, remember insulin is an active hormone that must be kept refrigerated to be effective.  Also, different insulin products come in different concentrations.  Always match the syringe to the concentration of the product you are using.