While we as humans have little-to-nothing to worry about when it comes to gobbling down a handful of grapes or raisins, the same cannot be said for our dogs. As pet owners, it is important for us to know which types of foods are safe and which could be dangerous or potentially fatal if our animals happen to eat them. One item to add to your list of non-friendly food items are grapes as well as their prunier counterpart, the raisin. If you have ever wondered, “is it okay if my dog ate raisins?”, then this blog post is for you.
It has been found that grapes, raisins and even currants (some currants are actually small, black grapes) have been well-documented as being toxic for dogs and therefore should be avoided as best as possible. It is unclear whether this is a new problem, or if the toxic nature of grapes and raisins became recognized after the establishment of a computerized animal toxicity database about 25 years ago. Whatever the case may be, the number of identified cases of illness or death in dogs after they have eaten raisins or grapes is on the rise.
Ingestion of even a small amount of grapes, raisins, or currants can result in severe, acute canine kidney failure. All types of grape- or raisin-containing products (including grape juice, trail mix, bagels, etc.) can result in this condition. Poisoning has occurred in dogs after eating a variety of grape-related items such as seedless or seeded grape varieties, commercial or homegrown fruits, red or green grapes/raisins, organic or non-organic fruits, and grape pressings from wineries. Even the organic, pesticide-free, grapes grown in home gardens can result in toxicity. Although pinning down exactly what it is within raisins that causes the toxic reaction is not yet known, it is still a good idea not to let your dog eat them just in case. Because even the smallest amount of this fruit can end up being a serious problem and fatally toxic for your canine. All in all, watch out for the raisin!
Symptoms of Raisin Toxicity
Dogs of any age, breed, or gender can be affected by a series of unfortunate problems if they happen to consume grapes or raisins. The toxic agent within grapes/raisins has not yet been identified but appears to be associated with the flesh of the fruit. In other words, peeled and/or seedless grapes are still considered toxic. The reason this pint-size fruit is so bad for dogs is that it can cause serious complications for them such as severe kidney damage which can lead to sudden kidney failure and lack of urine production.
Most cases of grape and raisin poisoning are diagnosed because an owner knows or suspects that their dog has eaten the fruit. Sometimes partially-digested grapes and raisins can be seen in a dog’s vomit or fecal matter. Routine laboratory tests, including a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and a urinalysis, can help to diagnose most cases of acute kidney failure regardless of the cause.
The toxicity is also not necessarily dose-dependent, and symptoms can occur with even small ingestions. Some researchers suspect that a mycotoxin (a toxic substance produced by a fungus or mold) may be the cause. Some suspect a salicylate (aspirin-like) drug may be naturally found in the grape, resulting in decreased blood flow to the kidneys. However, so far no toxic agent has been identified. And since it is currently unknown why these fruits are toxic, any exposure should be a cause for concern. Although there are two principles that seem to prevail when it comes to this affliction:
- Dogs are more likely to become poisoned if they ingest large amounts of fruit.
- There is significant individual sensitivity amongst dogs.
Kidney failure is not seen in all dogs after ingestion of grapes or raisins as each dog’s system is unique and is affected differently by certain things. Ingesting even the smallest amount of a grape or raisin can be toxic for some dogs while other dogs can ingest relatively large amounts without developing any of the obvious symptoms. There is no way to predict which dogs may be more sensitive and finding out why some dogs are affected excessively, while others are not, is still being studied.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of grape or raisin poisoning are non-specific and are similar to kidney failure from many other causes. Your veterinarian will base a presumptive diagnosis of this poisoning on a history of eating grapes, raisins, currants, or the presence of pieces of grapes or raisins in the dog’s vomit. Your veterinarian will also recommend diagnostic tests such as a complete blood count (CBC), a serum biochemistry profile, and a urinalysis to assess the amount of damage to the kidneys. These test results will help determine the dog’s likelihood of recovery.
In general, grape and raisin poisoning will usually cause dogs to develop some combination of the following symptoms:
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea – often within a few hours of ingestion. Vomit and fecal contents material may contain pieces of grapes or raisin.
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy, weakness, unusual quietness
- Abdominal pain
- Oliguria (passing only a small amount of urine)
- Anuria (complete cessation of urine)
- Foul breath
- Oral ulcers
If you suspect that your pet has eaten any of these fruits, please contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control service, immediately. You do not want to waste any time! Since there are still many unknowns associated with this type of poisoning in dogs, it is better not to take any chances when it comes to your pet’s health. The goal of treatment is to block absorption of the toxins and prevent or minimize damage to the kidneys. The best treatment is to decontaminate your animal right away via the induction of vomiting and administration of activated charcoal. This will help to prevent absorption of the toxin from the stomach or intestines. As with any toxin, the sooner the poisoning is diagnosed and treated, the less harm is expected for your pet, as well as reducing the amount of worry and stress for you.
When treating a dog who has eaten grapes or raisins, if you go to a veterinarian, they will start by inducing vomiting (if the ingestion has occurred within the last two hours and the dog hasn’t already vomited) possibly followed by gastric lavage (washing out the stomach) and administration of activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxins. After this, your vet will begin intravenous fluid therapy to flush the toxins out of the dog’s bloodstream and to encourage the kidneys to keep producing urine. If necessary, the veterinarian will give your dog medications to reduce vomiting and maintain kidney function. During this time, the doctor will be monitoring your dog’s kidney function with regular rechecks of bloodwork.
Ideally, dogs should be hospitalized on intravenous fluids for 24-to-48 hours following in