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Why Are Grapes Bad for Dogs?

There is a relatively short list of human foods that are highly dangerous for dogs, with grapes and raisins being a common culprit leading to emergency clinic visits. This article explores why these foods are harmful for dogs, the signs of toxicity, and how to keep your dog safe if they eat some.

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The truth about grapes and dogs: a toxic combination

No matter the age, size, or breed, dogs cannot eat raisins or grapes. Even small amounts can be highly toxic, and it's unpredictable which dogs will be more sensitive. Grape toxicity in puppies is potentially a greater risk due to their smaller size and propensity to eat things they shouldn't.

While the identity of the toxin in grapes and dried grapes (such as raisins, sultanas, and currants) was once elusive, recent studies have suggested a culprit. Tartaric acid is believed to be a toxin. The ASPCA determined this after dogs presented with signs of grape toxicity after eating both cream of tartar and tamarind.

Sadly, this toxin is hazardous and can even prove fatal. Without treatment, within just a few days, there is the potential for dogs to develop acute kidney failure and death.

Symptoms of dog grape poisoning

It is crucial to emphasize that signs will not show immediately. It can take a couple of days for the symptoms of kidney disease to become apparent. Some of the most common signs include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea, a loss of appetite, and general nausea. An upset stomach will usually develop within 6–12 hours of the food entering the dog's digestive system, and the patient may seem reasonably well at this point.
  • Lethargy and weakness. As time goes on, dogs become more depressed and less interested in what is going on around them. You may notice they sleep more and start to pass large amounts of urine.
  • Excessive thirst, dehydration and a reduced (or absent) urine output. These signs develop after one to three days and are an indication of kidney failure in dogs.
  • Coma, seizures, and mouth ulcers can develop once kidney disease has established and toxins have built up.

Acting quickly: what to do if your dog eats grapes

Some owners will note that their dog seems well after eating the grapes and will assume their dog has not eaten a toxic quantity. You mustn't be lulled into a false sense of security. The sooner you act, the better your dog's prognosis. Waiting for a pet to develop symptoms before seeking veterinary treatment could mean they will not survive.

If you suspect your dog has eaten fresh or dried grapes in any amount, contact your local vet clinic immediately. This may mean an out-of-hours clinic if it is nighttime or the weekend. Your vet is likely going to ask you to come right in so they can safely induce vomiting. Depending on the quantity ingested, they may also start intravenous fluids and activated charcoal meals to reduce toxin absorption. Some pets are kept intravenous for several days while they are monitored for any toxic effects on the kidneys using blood and urine tests.

Keep in mind that the cost of veterinary care for dogs who have eaten toxins can be high, especially if they need to be seen out of hours or if they develop organ failure. The potential for toxicities is just one of the many reasons why vets recommend pet insurance, and most pet insurance will cover grape poisoning.

Preventing grape poisoning: keeping your dog safe

Keep grapes and raisins away from your pet. This also applies to grapes and raisins in baked goods, jellies, cereal, and cookies. Other potential sources to be aware of include compost and fertilizer.

Other toxic foods for dogs in your home include chocolate, macadamia nuts, alcohol, garlic, onion, caffeine, and xylitol (a sweetener). These foods must be inaccessible to your pet, which may mean keeping them in sealed containers and stored inside pantries or cupboards. Remember, dog poisoning prevention is far preferable to treating ingestion.

It is a great idea to ensure everyone in your home is aware of the toxicity of grapes so none are ever offered by mistake. Dog food safety is even more critical for households with toddlers and young children. Keep your pet out of the room when anyone is eating grapes or raisins, and clean the floor well afterward.

Though grapes may seem innocuous, they are a real threat to your four-legged friend. Awareness of their threat is half the battle, and you can take measures to prevent your dog from consuming grapes and raisins. If your dog does manage to ingest any, have them seen at the local vet clinic immediately.


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