Dogs don’t have the right instincts when it comes to food, they’ll eat just about anything, especially if it’s sweet. Lots of types of food are unhealthy for dogs, but grapes (& raisins) are different because they cause immediate effects and can lead to death in dogs. Read on to find out the effect of grapes on dogs, the signs, symptoms & treatment of grape poisoning, along with some prevention tips.
Why are grapes bad for dogs?
The reason grapes (& raisins) have such a severe effect on dogs is not known. A toxin is the suspected culprit, but the exact substance in grapes that causes the effects has not been identified, and the amount of grapes that must be eaten before these effects develop is also not known. Furthermore, it’s likewise not known why some dogs may be affected severely by as little as a few grapes, while others may eat relatively large amount and be safe. This suggests that the age, gender and breed of a dog are not relevant factors.
What is known is that the kidney is the primary organ affected. Grapes cause a sudden decline in the kidney function (known as acute kidney injury in medical terms), potentially causing them to shut down and stop producing urine. This is a critical and life-threatening state, and should be treated as an emergency.
All dogs should avoid all types of grapes (seedless and seeded, red and green), along with raisins (which are just dried grapes), and any other food products containing grapes, such as grape juice or wine. Even a small amount may be poisonous for your dog.
Signs & symptoms of grape poisoning in dogs
The signs of grape poisoning begin within a few hours of ingestion. Vomiting and/or diarrhea are often the first signs, usually occurring within the first 2 hours of grape ingestion. The signs & symptoms of grape poisoning include:
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Weakness, low energy
- Abdominal pain (tender when touched)
- Loss of appetite for food & water
- Decrease in volume or complete cessation of urine
- Kidney failure (within 48 hours)
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Tremors or seizure
- Loss of consciousness
Emergency treatment for grape poisoning
The treatment for grape poisoning is time-sensitive, the first 2 hours after ingestion of grapes is the critical period during which vomiting should be induced. Vomiting the contents of the stomach will prevent the toxic substances from being absorbed from your dog’s stomach into his system; after the first 2 hours the chances are high that the absorption has already occurred.
If you are sure that your dog has eaten grapes (any amount), then bring him to the nearest veterinarian immediately. The vet will be able to safely induce vomiting, give activated charcoal, and do a stomach pump, all of which will prevent absorption of the grapes from your dog’s stomach.
If you think you might not make it to the nearest vet in time (within two hours), you can attempt to induce vomiting at home at your own risk. Give 1ml of 3% hydrogen peroxide per pound of body weight, up to a maximum of 45ml. Do not exceed 45 ml. Give the hydrogen peroxide to your dog by mouth, squirting it into the back of his mouth using a dropper or a syringe (without needle). Vomiting should occur within 15 minutes; prepare your dog by laying him on his side, preferably on a slightly raised surface with his head pointing downwards – this is to ensure that the vomited material will exit his mouth and not be swallowed into his lungs.
If you are able to call your vet for guidance over the phone, you should do so. Do not attempt to induce vomiting if your dog is unconscious or showing any signs of difficulty breathing (rapid breathing, gasping for air).
Regardless of the amount of time since your dog ate the grapes, or if you attempted induction of vomiting at home, your next step should be to bring him to the vet immediately for further treatment.
Further treatment for and expected outcomes in grape poisoning
Much of the treatment for grape poisoning will depend on the state of your dog’s kidneys and whether he’s urinating or not. A dog that is urinating, awake and eating food has good chances of recovering completely. Treatment may be limited to IV fluid therapy, observation and monitoring the kidneys through blood tests for 48-72 hours.
On the other hand, a dog that is not urinating, is weak or unconscious and/or has no appetite to eat is in critical condition, and will need more aggressive treatment. This will likely involve IV fluid therapy, kidney medications and possibly dialysis or a kidney transplant. If your dog’s kidney are not able to recover from failure, death is a possible outcome.
Tips to prevent your dog from eating grapes
- Keep all grape and raisin products out of reach. This means not leaving them on counter tops or any other open space that your dog might be able to gain access to. Ideally these products would be in a closed cupboard that is well above your dog’s reach.
- Advise all household members and visitors not to give grapes or raisins to dogs. The fact that grapes are toxic to dogs (and cats) is unfortunately not common knowledge, and simply spreading the information can be life-saving.