A Mystery Solved

Bowl of grapes It has long been known that ingesting grapes – fresh or dried – can prove fatal for dogs but the mechanism of toxicity has hitherto remained a mystery.

Now the Veterinary Poisons Information Service has revealed evidence provided in a letter to the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine Association that suggests that the culprit may be tartaric acid. Tartaric acid is a crystalline organic acid that occurs naturally in many fruits as well as grapes, including bananas, tamarinds and citrus. Its salt, potassium bitartrate (cream of tartar), develops naturally during fermentation. When mixed with sodium bicarbonate, it is sold as baking powder and used as a leavening agent.

The authors of the letter noted that dogs showed similar signs when poisoned by cream of tartar as when poisoned by grapes or raisins. The amount of tartaric acid and potassium bitartrate in grapes varies by the type of grape, growing conditions and growth stage, but is still sufficient to cause renal failure in dogs. The variation in tartaric acid concentrations means that it is not possible to ascertain the toxic dose.

Further research is required but ingestion of grapes and raisins should always be a cause for alarm and a vet should be contacted immediately for advice.

Speaking In Code

dog and cow Natural England and Natural Resources Wales launched a new countryside code on the inauspicious date of April 1st, 2021.

The Countryside Code guidelines were first issued in 1951 and last updated a decade ago. There have always been problems with litter, fly tipping, livestock being harmed and damage to agricultural land and levels have been increasing in recent years. Covid-19 restrictions have seen horrific examples of fly tipping and littering and the increase in the number of new and irresponsible dog owners has probably, in part, been responsible for the increase in incidents of harm inflicted on livestock.

With this in mind, what are the priorities of the new code?

“New advice for people to ‘be nice, say hello, share the space’ as well as ‘enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory’”

“A refreshed tone of voice, creating a guide for the public rather than a list of rules – recognising the significant health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature.”

It is difficult to know whether to cry or scream.

The countryside is not a giant theme park laid out for the pleasure of ramblers and casual visitors. It is the place that grows and rears our food, balances our climate, manages a balanced population of wildlife. It is the place where those custodians live and work, often extremely precariously. What would people think if they invaded towns and cities deposited manure in gardens, savaged pets and then went away again having demanded their right of access?

While those responsible for litter, fly-tipping and dog attacks on livestock are busy boosting their health and well being and making jolly memories of their incursion into the countryside, they leave the cost in time, effort and money of clearing up after them. That willingly continue to get worse until someone with considerably more sense and knowledge of the problems is allowed to create a proper revision and implementation of the Code.