Many of us, myself included, tend to slip our dogs a table scrap here a table scrap there: a slab of meat, a piece of cheese, a stalk of broccoli ol’ Fido will spit out 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, plead, or promise to clean up their own mess in the backyard, wine is one thing that just isn’t for those of the canine kind.

Now, most dogs probably wouldn’t even drink wine if offered it. I can imagine many would simply stick up their noses and go off and lick themselves. But, there are a few dogs out there that will simply consume anything placed near their mouths. My dog, for instance, once ate a Starburst wrapper and begged for another, leaving me to believe if I ever offered him wine, he’d toast me before quickly chugging it down.

But my dog, and yours, simply must live a life never knowing what good wine tastes like (ironically, many dogs think that humans must live a life never knowing what good cat poop tastes like). The reason wine and dogs don’t go together is simple: wine, or anything that contains grapes, is potentially damaging to dogs. Drinking it can cause them to develop kidney failure, an inability to produce urine, and, of course, slurred barking. Some dogs with this kind of reaction can survive but unfortunately, it can also prove fatal.

Science is unsure why wine has this affect on canines, and unsure why some dogs don’t react poorly to consuming wine and others do. It is assumed that the source of blame lies in a mycotoxin, a poison that can be generated when a fungal infection attacks grapevines. This kind of poison can be prevalent in a variety of grapes: those grown in the backyard, and those bought at the market, those of red color and those of green color, those with seeds and those without, 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 relies on two things: the amount of grapes used to make the wine and the size of the dog. Wines that are made solely of grapes, with no other fermented fruit, are potentially more dangerous than an apple wine or an apricot wine. The size of the dog is the other factor: just like a smaller human will be more affected by one glass of wine than a larger human, a smaller dog may get sick from a little wine while a larger dog may be fine. Still, even if you have a 160 pound Saint Bernard, he could possibly get sick from just a sip. Wine seems to affect many dogs differently.

If a dog does happen to consume wine, perhaps by licking up a puddle accidentally spilled on the floor or, less likely, getting a key to the wine cellar, there are certain symptoms to look for warning you that your dog is sick. The dog may initially experience vomiting, or loose stools only to progress to symptoms of lethargy, a refusal to drink, and a lack of appetite. Full blown kidney failure can begin in as little as 48 hours after the wine is consumed.

In the event symptoms are present, you should call your vet 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 absorb the rest of the poison and start him on IV fluids. Several medications to protect the stomach, buffer the kidneys, and ignite urine flow may also be given.

Even if you dog receives quick and efficient treatment, there is no guarantee the kidneys won’t fail. For this reason, your best bet in keeping your dog free of this fatal illness is to keep wine, grapes, and raisins out of his mouth. This allows you – with a bottle of wine in your hand and a dog at your side – to keep both of your best friends.