Dogs and Grapes: Two Loves That Do Not Go Together

I have lived here for ten years and Fall is definitely my favorite time of year in Sonoma County. The weather is cooling a bit (hopefully!) and the vineyards are becoming this brilliant orange color that leaves me feeling like I’m watching a painting instead of real life. It is also the time when you will see the dark clusters of beautiful fruit hanging ready for the picking, just waiting for the farmers to decide it is the perfect time to pluck them and magically transform them into the delicious wines we all love.

My love for all things grapes and wine has blossomed during the past decade, but it will never supersede my love for my pets. They are family and as such, it is not uncommon for me to follow in the ways of my grandmother with the adage “food is love”. Small treats are a common place in my house but unfortunately, giving grapes or raisins to dogs is not a safe way to show your love.

The consumption of grapes and raisins by dogs presents as a potential health threat. Their toxicity to dogs can manifest as acute kidney failure. The mechanism of the toxicity is unknown. There are some thoughts that a toxin derived from a fungus on the grape could be involved but that has not been substantiated. Any grape or raisin can be a culprit from home grown, to store purchased. Just remember that it doesn’t take many grapes for a problem to develop, a 50lb dog can be poisoned by a little as 15 ounces of grapes (around 2 cups of grapes) or two to three ounces of raisins (1/3 cup).

The most common symptoms you may see initially with grape toxicity are lack of appetite, as well as vomiting and diarrhea and may happen shortly after ingestion. As the toxicity develops you may notice increased water intake. Full blown kidney failure can develop within 48 hours after ingestion.

Because we cannot tell which grapes will lead to toxicity, the best recommendation is if you know your pet ingested grapes or raisins, please get them into your veterinarian or an emergency hospital as soon as possible for decontamination. This involves induction of vomiting, followed by treatment with activated charcoal which acts to bind the toxin in the intestines. Your veterinarian may also recommend hospitalization with IV fluids for a minimum of 48 hours to try and protect the kidneys.

The overall prognosis for grape/raisin toxicity varies from good to poor depending on if kidney failure develops and the severity of the kidney failure. Some animals may need hospitalization and more extensive care if their bloodwork indicates affects to the kidneys.

Grapes are one situation where being proactive at the time of ingestion before your pet is sick may save them from experiencing severe illness. If you are ever in doubt, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for Advice! (insert link to our poison page).