By Sarah Hilario, DVM
Growing up with a dog and several cats, I never considered grapes or raisins to be a threat to our pets’ health. My family’s dog loved vacuuming everything off the kitchen floor, and she never developed any health problems from the occasional grape ingestion. It wasn’t until veterinary school that I learned of the potential threat for poisoning from grapes and raisins. Cats generally will not eat these fruits, and therefore their risk of toxicity is much lower. Some dogs can eat them with no ill effects while others will go into sudden kidney failure that can be fatal. Unfortunately, there is no test to detect whether or not a dog will be poisoned by consuming grapes. Because of this risk it is recommended to never let your dog consume grapes, raisins or even grape juice.
We don’t know which dogs are susceptible to poisoning and how many grapes are needed to cause kidney failure. Seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect that your dog has consumed any grapes or raisins. If early intervention is not performed, the prognosis for survival is lower for dogs that are vulnerable to grape poisoning. Over time these symptoms may develop: vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. Their kidneys may be irreversibly damaged by the time illness occurs and treatment is pursued. The decision on whether or not to treat a dog for grape poisoning can be difficult due to so many unknowns. However, this decision is best made with your veterinarian and it is always better to error on the side of caution.
Typically your veterinarian will first administer a drug to cause your dog to vomit. This will remove any grapes still in the stomach. Second, activated charcoal will be given in an attempt to bind with any remaining toxin to prevent its absorption into the body. Third, an intravenous catheter will be placed in your dog’s forearm and fluids will be given for up to three days to help protect and flush the kidneys. Blood work is performed periodically to check on how the kidneys are functioning. If kidney values are normal after three days, no further treatment is required and the chance of continued illness is very low.
Remember that just because a food is safe for people it doesn’t necessary mean that it is safe for our beloved pets. If you are unsure about what human foods can be safely given as snacks, ask your veterinarian.