Raisins can be Deadly
by Cynde Randall from True Grit Magazine - 2000
A Sad and Essential Story
It has been nine months since the tragic loss of my two and beautiful and beloved Jack Russell Terriers, Deedee and Owen, whose untimely deaths resulted from the renal failure and other complications due to the ingestion of a large quantity of raisins. It is very difficult for me to tell the story, but I know that it is important to pass onto other dog lovers who might have had a different outcome in the same situation if they had the information I'm about to share.
My wonderful dogs came to me from the kind breeders Connie and Scott Mortensen, of Littlemoor Kennels, in Coon Rapids Minnesota. Deedee and Owen were siblings one litter apart. Deedee Speck was a black and white female, with a broken coat. She was utterly silent, a supreme jumper and had a fierce streak a mile long. Owen Five Spot was a smooth tricolor male, with a very complicated vocal repertoire. He just loved other dogs and people and his sweet disposition was like sunlight in my home, a place we all shared with the noble Michael, a black and tan collie/shepherd mix; two cats; three finches and two canaries.
Our ordeal began at the end of October, 1999. While I was at work one of the cats opened a food cupboard door. The terriers located and devoured a 1 LB box of raisins. I arrived home to find remnants of the package and two very full looking dogs. Sadly I thought nothing of it. I would proceed with my usual drill. I have had dogs of all types over the years and was well acquainted with dogs wolfing down large amounts of food. In any case, I would let them clear their systems, and fast them, giving only clear fluids such as broth and then gentle food like rice before returning to their usual diet. Indeed both dogs vomited raisins the next day. I administered fluids for two days following, including Pedialyte to balance electrolytes, and then introduced rice, which neither dog would touch. Something wasn't right. I didn't know what, but instead of perking up these dogs seemed spooked. I decided to take them to an emergency vet figuring they needed more aggressive treatment. The Emergency Veterinary Services in Golden Valley, Minnesota kept the terriers overnight. When I returned the next morning intending to pick them up, Dr. Cochran, who attended them through the night, informed me that my dogs were very sick and that their only chance for survival was to receive round the clock intensive care. She explained that both dogs had gone into kidney failure and that kidneys stop functioning with exposure to poisons such as radiator coolant or Tylenol. But my dogs had no such opportunity for exposure to such things. I do not keep Tylenol. Other things such as chocolate or medications were always high up and out of reach. Further my dogs never spend time outdoors unattended. The raisins were the only thing that they'd been exposed to. Dr. Cochran has no awareness of raisins being toxic, although when she consulted her emergency room physician husband, he wondered about iron poisoning.
We were referred to a wonderful intensive care animal clinic in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, that specializes in internal medicine and oncology. The clinic, Metropolitan Veterinary Specialists, LTD, headed up by a very intense and charismatic vet named Dr. Eric Goulaud. He and his staff are expert at dealing with critically ill animals. Both dogs received intravenous fluid therapy and were administered medication to jump-start the kidneys. Ultrasound showed extensive damage to Owen's stomach which looked like a deflated balloon. They ran special blood work -- the iron levels were not especially high, but toxicity could have moved by that time to the organs.
Both dogs were appreciative of the care that they were receiving. Goulaud thought that there was a chance to save them and advised that we follow the attitudes of the dogs. He informed me that I was a critical part of the healing process and that I was welcome to spend as much time there as possible. Visiting hours were noon to 8P.M. The staff told me that they could set us up with a private space. I spent the next two days talking to, petting and massaging my little terriers, all of us on blankets and pillows from home that covered the floor of an exam room that was now our private space. A close friend came to help for an afternoon - someone who Deedee was especially fond. And I called the owner of Owen's best friend, Buster the boxer, to see if she could send along something with Buster's scent. Owen's little tail wagged vigorously with the scent of Buster, as it did when he was given his favorite ball.
Sadly, by the second night of their stay things took a turn for the worse. Deedee started barking non-stop - a sign that the toxicity was now affecting her brain, and her mouth and tongue were ulcerating, something indicating ulceration throughout her entire digestive tract. Owen's body temperature had dropped 6 degrees below normal. His system was shutting down. Even still, he wagged his tail for me and the staff the next morning.
I knew the instant that I saw them Sunday morning that we had gone as far as we could. I felt deep regret that they were now suffering so. The attending vet that morning agreed. As the IV sites were located in their neck, it would be very quick. We agreed that they would go at the same time. I told the dogs how much I loved them and thanked them for being so wonderful and said I hoped that I would see them again. With a hand gently resting on the head of each dog, I nodded to Dr. Olsen. She hit the plunger of each syringe and the suffering stopped as each dog died as quietly as a candle blowing out.
I cannot fully express how this experience was made bearable for me and my dogs because of the kindness and wisdom of Goulaud's clinic staff. Ironically, it was the most positive medical experience that I have ever had.
I regret that I did not have the composure to request autopsies for both dogs. It would have been the only way to be scientifically certain as to exact cause of death. But I can say that I will always consider raisins to be as deadly as chocolate. Dr. Goulaud, a highly skilled vet with fifteen years of experience, will consider the consumption of large amounts of raisins to be a medical emergency calling for IMMEDIATE action * the pumping of the stomach and administering of IV fluids. I send along his accounting of Deedee and Owen's case and a prologue.
The day after my terriers died I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't bear to go to work. I had called Connie Mortensen the night before to inform her of the whole ordeal. I called her back to see if I could just go and sit with some healthy Jacks. I particularly wanted to see Peaches, the mother of Deedee and Owen.
When I arrived at Connie's, she hugged me and took me to the back deck of her home. It was a beautiful sunny October day October 25. Her dogs were friendly and energetic and they piled all over me as I sat with Connie in the sun. Then my eyes fell on a dog that I had not seen before , I did a double take because he looked like the perfect composite of Deedee and Owen. Then, Connie explained. He was, in fact, their full brother from the litter right after Owen. Incredibly he had just returned to Connie , He'd been with a trainer in Illinois. Strangely several different parties had tried to purchase him, but in each case something fell through. He had just returned from the National trials in Maryland and now Connie was looking to find him a home. Connie said that when she had gotten off the phone the night before it occurred to her that he had come back for me. She could see my interest and when I inquired about him, she said she thought that he was meant to be mine. I decided that instant to adopt him. I named him Illya Kuryakin Deo. Illya Kuryakin for a childhood crush on the star of the 1960's spy show "The Man From Uncle"; Deo for Deedee and Owen. And though I still miss my dogs terribly (I cried for many months) I am most grateful to this bouncy guy, Mr. Kuryakin who has helped me to heal.
I gratefully express my gratitude and appreciation to Connie Mortensen, Dr. Eric Goulaud, Dr. Olsen and all the staff of Metropolitan Veterinary Specialists, and Dr. Cochran of the Emergency clinic in Golden Valley. I hope this information is useful and if any of you have information that relates to this story please don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.