Why Grapes & Raisins Are So Dangerous for Dogs
If you’re wondering if dogs can have raisins or grapes—common treats for adults and kids alike—take note: Raisins and grapes are not safe for dogs to eat. While veterinarians aren't sure exactly why the fruit is so toxic to our canine friends, what is known is how serious the poisoning is, says Ahna Brutlag, DVM, who works with Pet Poison Helpline to help answer potential poisoning questions for veterinarians and pet owners.
How Toxic Are Grapes & Raisins to Dogs?
Some dogs get into a batch of grapes or raisins and live through the episode. Others develop kidney failure. Any raisin or grape is a problem: seedless, skinned, out of the grocery store, or out of the wine vineyard. Brutlag says it's unlikely that one or two grapes or raisins will cause a problem in a medium or large dog, but we don't know which dogs will be sensitive to it or get sick from it until it’s too late.
"That's why veterinarians treat most dogs who've eaten grapes or raisins very aggressively," Brutlag advises. "In a small dog, like a Chihuahua, one grape could be enough to cause a problem." She says it’s heartbreaking when new dog owners don't know how toxic these common fruit snacks are to dogs.
"The new dog owner sees the dog eat some raisins, the dog gets sick, and they had no idea they were causing the problem," Brutlag says. "They feel terrible because they were the ones to cause harm to their dog."
Signs Your Dog Has Been Poisoned By Eating Grapes or Raisins
It happens more often than you might think: Your sweet pooch gobbles down some grapes from a fruit bowl, or your child spills some raisins from a snack box under the table. Before you can act, your pup has already consumed the toxic fruit. If that happens, be on the lookout for the following signs that your dog may be experiencing a toxic reaction to grapes or raisins, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting or diarrhea within a few hours of eating the grapes or raisins
- Abdominal pain
- Dehydration, with panting, dry nose and mouth, or pale gums
- Increased or decreased drinking or urination
- Kidney failure
In cases of kidney failure, signs can progress to tremors, seizures, or comas, so being sensitive to early signs and a quick call to the veterinarian are crucial if you know your dog has eaten grapes or raisins.
"With raisin and grape poisoning, animals are going to develop kidney failure within eight hours of ingestion," Brutlag says. "By the time a dog is drinking more and urinating more, that means the kidneys are impacted. The damage may be irreversible."
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Grapes or Raisins
When your dog has eaten something toxic like grapes or raisins, a veterinarian may ask you to try to induce vomiting at home. "We want to get the grapes or raisins out of the stomach as soon as possible," says Brutlag.
A veterinarian may recommend that you give your dog a small amount of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, guiding you on the correct dose for your dog's weight and age. You'll pour or squirt the hydrogen peroxide into the back of the dog's mouth or into the back of your dog's cheek.
"If we get that grape or raisin back [in the vomit]," Brutlag says, "the dog owner may be able to monitor the dog at home." But Brutlag warns that pet owners should NOT try to induce vomiting if the dog is struggling to breathe or unconscious, especially for brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs and pugs. Their short, flat noses make them more likely to breathe in—or aspirate—vomit if they throw up (which can be fatal). Also, if you suspect your dog has ingested something else toxic with the grapes or raisins (like a household chemical), vomiting is not safe for your dog, and you need to visit the veterinarian immediately.
When to Visit the Veterinarian
Whether your dog vomits or not, your canine friend will likely need a trip to the veterinary hospital. A veterinarian may need to clean out your dog's stomach or administer activated charcoal to absorb toxins. He may also offer intravenous fluid to keep your dog hydrated during care. It’s always best to call your veterinarian anytime you have questions about something your dog may have eaten, since they’ll be able to advise you on specific instructions for your dog’s individual needs.