If you witnessed or strongly suspect your pet ingested grapes, raisins, or Zante currants, this is considered an “ORANGE” – or urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 for help determining if your pet consumed a toxic amount and for guidance on what to do next. If veterinary care is advised, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital ahead of your arrival.
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.
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, contact your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital. A medication called apomorphine can be given to induce vomiting and remove the possible toxin, often up to 4 hours after ingestion. Raisins are slow to digest, increasing the 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 family 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, has experienced changes in amount of drinking or urination, has bad breath, or has had 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. It’s also recommended that dogs be separated from the table in any homes with children or highchairs. Alternatively, consider not offering grapes and raisins in your home until everybody is old enough to understand the danger.
*UPDATE: Veterinarians recently discovered why grapes and dried grapes are toxic to pets. A study by ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center linked tartaric acid and its salt (potassium bitartrate) as the toxic principles that cause renal failure in pets. They made this discovery by studying cases of pets eating cream of tartar that contains the same ingredients and also resulted in toxicity. Variable concentrations of these components may explain why some pets develop kidney failure after eating grapes, dried grapes, and products made with grapes or dried grapes, while other pets have no issues.