When it comes to our pets, we’re all guilty of slipping them little nibbles underneath the table. But it’s important to keep in mind that the things that are good for us aren’t necessarily good for our animals. Next time you sit down for a meal, keep this information in mind before you share your food with your four-legged family member.
One of the most common questions veterinary staff gets asked is whether or not grapes are safe for animals, and it’s a common reason dogs are admitted to the hospital.
Are Grapes Safe For Dogs?
Grapes (and their raisin form) are actually quite toxic to dogs, even in small amounts. Unfortunately, there’s no set limit for what’s considered a toxic level. Some dogs are fine after eating a handful of grapes while others show toxicity symptoms after just a couple of grapes.
Unlike our bodies, a dog’s liver and kidneys process foods and medications differently than we do. In this case, dogs can develop kidney damage or even kidney failure after ingesting grapes. It’s unknown to experts why some dogs can eat grapes and be fine in one instance, then they ingest them a second or third time and suffer from toxicosis.
If you have grapes or raisins in the house–especially if you have kids–it’s critical to know the signs of grape toxicity.
Signs and Symptoms of Grape Toxicity
Unfortunately, the initial symptoms of grape toxicosis are non-specific, meaning they can be caused by a variety of other things. Vomiting is usually the first symptom and appears within a few hours of ingestion. After that, the dog could start having diarrhea or appear lethargic.
When the kidneys get involved, the symptoms start to get a little more specific. Your dog will start to drink excessively and seem insatiable when it comes to their water consumption. Because of the excessive thirst (polydypsia), they’ll start to urinate more frequently (polyuria).
On average, acute kidney failure will develop anywhere from 24 hours to three days after ingestion. Besides the excessive drinking and urination, abdominal pain will be evident in the form of a hunched back or extremely slow/ginger movements.
As the toxicity builds, the kidneys will begin to shut down and stop producing urine. An odd smell will develop in your dog’s mouth and some dogs get ulcers on their gums. If the dog isn’t treated, his blood pressure will skyrocket and possibly send the dog into unconsciousness.
How Is Grape Toxicity Diagnosed and Treated?
Getting a specific diagnosis isn’t always possible because the initial symptoms are so generic. If you didn’t notice your dog eating grapes or raisins, it’s impossible to know that the organ damage is specific to the ingestion. Some dogs will vomit up pieces of the fruit and that can help expedite the diagnosis and treatment processes but the presence isn’t always guaranteed.
Your vet will run a complete blood count, a blood panel to examine kidney function, and a urinalysis. All of these things will indicate whether the kidneys have been affected and how severe the damage is.
If the dog is seen within two hours of ingestion, the vet can induce vomiting to get rid of any grapes in the stomach. That will be followed up by an oral administration of activated charcoal to help stop any absorption of the toxins via the digestive tract.
The dog will then stay overnight (at minimum) in the hospital receiving intravenous fluids to further flush the body of toxins and help protect the kidneys. If needed, your dog will be given medications to control any nausea and improve blood flow to the kidneys.
If your dog is treated promptly, prognosis is quite excellent. Follow up bloodwork is required to ensure the kidneys weren’t harmed, but most dogs walk away completely unscathed. The best way to prevent grape toxicosis is to throw away grapes or raisins in trash receptacles that dogs can’t access and talk to children about the dangers of grapes with dogs. A little bit of prevention can go a long way towards saving your dog’s life.