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Zante Currant Toxicity in Pets

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A few years ago, a dog came to our St. Paul facility after eating a currant scone that his owner had purchased at a café. As soon as she realized what had happened, she rushed the dog to our ER.  

Now here’s the tricky part. Our team had to figure out what type of currants were used in the scone – because what happened next depended entirely on whether or not the scone contained true currants or Zante currants, which are far more dangerous. 

The café directed us to Midwest Northern Nut in Minneapolis, who supplies their scones. Thanks to their wonderful staff, we were able to quickly identify the exact species found in the scone. Unfortunately, the dog did indeed eat Zante currants, but Midwest Northern Nut was able to give us all the information we needed for decontamination. Thanks to them and to Mom’s recognition of the potential toxin and quick action, this dog was able to go home!

However, that’s not always the case. We’re sharing this story because while many pet parents are aware that grapes and raisins are toxic to pets, they often forget that this also includes Zante currants and sultanas, which are other types of dried grapes.  So if you love baking with currants or enjoy grapes in any format – it’s important to know which type of currants are toxic to pets and just how dangerous they can be!  

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Understanding Types of Currants 

When it comes to currants, there are true currants and then there are Zante currants. Black, white, and red true currants (Ribes nigrum and Ribes rubrum) are a type of berry and therefore considered non-toxic, but they may cause minor stomach upset in large quantities.  

Then there are Zante currants (Vitis vinifera). These actually aren’t currants at all! Instead of a dried berry, Zante currants are a dried grape, which means they are highly toxic to pets. Beware though, many grocery stores have easier access to Zante currants and label them as “currants” – so double-check those labels! 

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Grapes & Dried Grape Toxicity  

Grapes, raisins, sultanas, and Zante currants are all considered toxic to dogs, cats, and ferrets. They can cause fatal kidney failure. Common symptoms of ingestion include lack of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Foods that often contain grapes or raisins, currants, and sultanas: 

  • Scones, muffins, fruit cakes, bread, cookies, and other baked goods 
  • Trail mixes and granola mixes 
  • Jams 
  • Salads 
  • Stuffing
  • Wine 

 Why are grapes & dried grapes toxic to pets?  

Veterinarians only 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.  

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The best way to prevent grape and dried grape toxicity in pets is by keeping all grapes, raisins, Zante currants, sultanas, and products made with any of these ingredients out of your pet’s reach. If your pet does get into any of these items, or you suspect he has, seek immediate veterinary treatment. Do not wait for visible symptoms – every second counts to begin treatment and avoid kidney failure! 

Learn more about grape and dried grapes toxicity in pets here.    

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