A brown dog looking at its owner harvesting grapes off the vine.

Welcome to “Can My Dog Eat That?,” our new series that answers some obvious (and not-so-obvious) questions about what your dog can and can’t safely eat. Read on!

A grape or two might seem like a harmless snack for your dog. After all, it’s just fruit, and mostly water at that. But grapes can be toxic to dogs, potentially leading to acute kidney failure and even death.

This applies to all types of grapes, whether they’re red, green, seeded or seedless, organic or grown conventionally. But fresh grapes aren’t the only problem. Grapes that have been dried — otherwise known as raisins, sultans (light brown, seedless raisins) and Zante currents — can be problematic as well.

The same goes for foods in your pantry that contain raisins, including cookies, bars and breads, granola mix, trail mix and raisin bran cereal. It’s not clear if grape jelly, grape juice or wine could be hazardous, but why take the risk?

What makes them toxic?

Until recently, no one knew why, exactly, dogs and grapes shouldn’t mix. But veterinarians at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center discovered that tartaric acid (the ingredient cream of tartar is made from) might be the culprit. The amount of tartaric acid in grapes can vary depending on the type of grape, the degree of ripeness and the growing conditions.

In addition to varying levels within the grapes, dogs can have individual responses to the fruit, making it frustratingly difficult to determine how many will be a problem. Dogs have had a toxic reaction after eating as little as 0.32 ounces of grapes and 0.05 ounces of raisins per pound of body weight.

If your dog has eaten grapes or raisins, call your veterinarian or the closest veterinary emergency clinic immediately.

Signs of a problem

It doesn’t take long for signs of toxicity to appear. Within hours of eating grapes or raisins, dogs may vomit and refuse to eat. If your dog surfed your countertop without your knowledge, you may find the telltale signs of grapes in the vomit. The dog may also have diarrhea, show signs of abdominal pain, drooling, dehydration and lethargy. They may drink and urinate more than normal, or in more advanced cases, they may produce little or no urine.

Seek veterinary help immediately

Since kidney damage can happen quickly, it’s best to call your veterinarian as soon as possible. While there’s no specific test to determine if your dog is experiencing grape toxicity, it’s generally diagnosed based on the history of grape consumption or grapes found in the vomit.

If your dog ate grapes or raisins within the last hour or two and hasn’t vomited yet, the doctor will probably recommend that vomiting be induced to get the toxins out of the stomach. Once that’s accomplished, your dog may be given activated charcoal by mouth, which may help prevent further absorption of toxins into your dog’s system.

In cases of grape or raisin toxicity, some dogs may need aggressive therapy, including hospitalization and intravenous fluids. The veterinarian may recommend blood work and urinalyses to monitor kidney function. Dogs may also benefit from stomach protectants, medications to control vomiting and nutritional support.

While grapes should always be avoided in dogs, other fruits can be healthy and safe snacks for your pooch. Consider offering apple slices (remove the seeds), cantaloupe, blueberries, strawberries or bananas instead.

 

An interior graphic with text that reads ‘Can my dog eat grapes? Never!’.
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The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.