Many of us, myself included, tend to slip our dogs a piece of table here, a piece of table there: a piece of meat, a piece of cheese, a stalk of broccoli ol ‘Fido will spit on the carpet and make us clean up. While most of our offerings may seem harmless, there is one thing we should never give our dogs: wine. No matter how much our dogs beg, beg, or promise to clean up their own backyard mess, wine is one thing that just isn’t for canines.

Now most dogs probably wouldn’t even drink wine if it was offered to them. I imagine many would just stick their noses in and walk away and lick each other. But, there are some dogs that will simply consume anything that is placed near their mouths. My dog, for example, once ate a Starburst wrapper and begged for another, letting me believe that if I ever offered him wine, he would toast me before quickly gulping it down.

But my dog, and yours, simply must live a life without knowing what good wine tastes like (ironically, many dogs think that humans must live a life without knowing what good cat poop tastes like). The reason why wine and dogs don’t go hand in hand is simple: Wine, or anything that contains grapes, is potentially harmful to dogs. Drinking it can cause them to develop kidney failure, an inability to produce urine and, of course, bark with difficulty. Some dogs with this type of reaction can survive, but unfortunately, it can also prove fatal.

Science isn’t sure why wine has this effect on canines, and it’s not sure why some dogs don’t react badly to wine and others do. The source of the blame is supposed to be a mycotoxin, a poison that can be generated when a fungal infection attacks vines. This type of poison can be prevalent in a variety of grapes: those that are grown in the backyard and those that are bought in the market, those that are red and those that are green, those that have seeds and those that do not, those that are dried (such as raisins) and those that are fresh.

The potential toxicity of each glass of wine if consumed by a dog depends on two things: the number of grapes used to make the wine and the size of the dog. Wines made solely from grapes, without other fermented fruits, are potentially more dangerous than apple wine or apricot wine. The size of the dog is the other factor: just as a smaller human will be more affected by a glass of wine than a larger human, a smaller dog can get sick from a little wine, while a larger dog can be okay. Still, even if you have a 160-pound Saint Bernard, you could possibly get sick from just one sip. Wine seems to affect many dogs differently.

If a dog consumes wine, perhaps licking a puddle accidentally spilled on the floor or, less likely, obtaining a key to the cellar, there are certain symptoms to look for to warn you that your dog is sick. The dog may initially experience vomiting or loose stools only to progress to symptoms of lethargy, refusal to drink, and poor appetite. Full-blown kidney failure can start in as little as 48 hours after consuming the wine.

In the event of symptoms, you should call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately. If the dog consumed the wine within a few hours, treatment may include inducing vomiting. The vet may also give your dog something to soak up the rest of the venom and start with intravenous fluids. Various medications can also be given to protect the stomach, dampen the kidneys, and ignite the flow of urine.

Even if your dog receives prompt and efficient treatment, there is no guarantee that the kidneys will not fail. For this reason, the best thing you can do to keep your dog free from this deadly disease is to keep wine, grapes, and raisins out of his mouth. This allows him, with a bottle of wine in hand and a dog at his side, to keep his two best friends.

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