When I was growing up, one of my mom's favorite treats to give my dog, Tillie, was grapes. They're the perfect size for tossing and catching, low-calorie, and totally safe, right?
Imagine my surprise when I learned later in life that grapes and raisins can cause irreversible, life-threatening kidney damage in dogs.
Stop. What? How? How many does it take?
At this time, the toxin present in grapes and raisins is unknown. Proposed toxins include pesticides, mold toxins, or an individual's dog's inability to digest certain components.
Furthermore, the dose needed to reach toxicity is also unknown. Clearly, not every dog reacts to grapes and raisins the same way. Experts estimate that up to half of dogs (Tillie included) may be unaffected by grapes and raisins. However, dogs that do react could be reacting to small amounts. Certainly, very large amounts ingested increase the risk.
So what do I do if my dog ate grapes or raisins?
If your dog has eaten grapes or raisins recently, give us a call. We can give a medication called apomorphine to induce vomiting and remove the possible toxin, often up to 4 hours after ingestion. Raisins are slow to digest, increasing our chances of being able to treat your dog before there is a problem. Further recommendations may include hospitalization for 24-48 hours with IV fluids to help flush and protect the kidneys from damage, administration of activated charcoal to bind any remaining toxin in the intestines, and monitoring kidney values.
If your dog has ingested raisins in the last few days, call your veterinarian. He or she may recommend checking some kidney values to make sure your dog is okay. It is even more important to have this discussion if your dog is vomiting, refusing to eat, or has experienced changes in amount of drinking or urination, has bad breath or abdominal pain.
Fido has always enjoyed the occasional grape, you say? No harm, no foul. However, it is probably best to stop letting him have them. I also recommend that dogs be separated from the table in any homes with children or high chairs. Alternatively, consider not offering grapes and raisins in your home until everybody is old enough to understand the danger.