We (humans) love grapes! Before and after, they become wine. I know some people will say, ‘I don’t like grapes!’ But we have cultivated them for almost 8,000 years… so as a general rule, humans love grapes.
But what about our faithful canines? Can dogs eat grapes? If you ask my GSD, he’d say yes, but that’s only because he’ll eat anything that will fit in his mouth (and some things that don’t). The truth, however, is a massive NO! Grapes and anything derived from grapes, like raisins, are extremely toxic and can be life-threatening to our furry family members.
Most dog owners already know that grapes are bad, but in case you didn’t or you want to know why they are actually bad. Keep on reading, my friend.
Why Are Grapes Bad for Dogs?
For well over 20 years, vets and dog owners alike have known that grapes were bad for dogs. They just didn’t know why. But it seems that the mystery has been solved!
Two years ago, in early 2021, a group of vets figured out what in grapes harms dogs by making a link between grape and raisin toxicosis and playdough.
Interestingly, Colette Wegenast, DVM, a senior consulting veterinarian in clinical toxicology at the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), had a breakthrough when investigating playdough toxicity in a group of dogs.
You must be wondering, “What does playdough have to do with grapes?”
In this particular case the playdough was homemade and after reviewing the recipe used, Dr. Wegenast noticed that it included cream of tartar. Not a common ingredient in playdough. Cream of tartar has high concentrations of tartaric acid.
You can probably guess by now, that grapes also have high concentrations of tartaric acid. Leading to the belief that that is the reason grapes are toxic to dogs.
To further confirm the theory, necropsies were performed on the dogs that had ingested the cream of tartar-filled playdough, and the results showed similar findings to what is seen in dogs that suffered from grape or raisin toxicosis.
Still, no one knows the exact mechanism of how and why tartaric acid affects dogs so strongly. This is especially interesting considering it’s harmless to people and most other animals.
My Dog Ate Grapes Once and Was Fine!
The level of tartaric acid a grape contains varies depending on the type, ripeness, and growing conditions of the fruit. This might explain why some dogs get very, very sick and others seem largely unaffected after eating a similar quantity of grapes or raisins.
It’s difficult to tell how much tartaric acid is in a particular grape, or raisin, so the best practice is to be safe and just keep them away from your dog. Far far away.
If your dog does eat some grapes, raisins, or any food containing them, it’s best to contact your vet immediately for advice.
What Are the Symptoms of Grape Toxicity in Dogs?
The main concern if your dog eats grapes or raisins is the nephrotoxic effect, which is the scientific way of saying rapid deterioration of kidney function. Symptoms to look out for, often within a few hours, are:
- Vomiting and diarrhea (you’ll sometimes see parts of grapes or raisins in the vomit or stool)
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy (extreme tiredness) and weakness
- Abdominal pain
- Increased thirst and urination
These symptoms can be an indication that your dog’s kidneys are severely affected. If left untreated, your dog may quickly develop acute kidney failure, which can lead to:
- Decreased or no urine production
- Seizures and tremors
- Coma and death
As you can see, grape toxicity is no joke and can be fatal to dogs. It’s important to seek veterinary attention ASAP if you suspect that your dog has eaten any number of grapes or raisins.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Grapes?
If your dog accidentally gets into the grapes or raisins, the first thing you should do is call your veterinarian. If it’s at night or over a weekend you may have to look for an emergency vet. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. I believe there is a consultation charge, but they can advise you on what to do depending on how much your dog ate and how long ago.
The emergency veterinarian will examine your dog, attempt to block the absorption of and or remove the toxins, give your pet intravenous fluids, and will run blood tests to assess your dog’s kidney function. They may also give your pet medication to encourage them to produce urine and decrease nausea.
Activated charcoal is well known for it’s ability to bind to toxins which helps decrease the chances of them entering your pet’s bloodstream. This means that your vet will most likely give your pet activated charcoal in addition to inducing vomiting (for the same reason).
As with all conditions in pets, grape toxicity prognosis differs depending on the circumstances. We’ve listed some factors which can affect it below:
- Your pet’s general condition and age
- The volume of grapes or raisins ingested
- The time elapsed since ingestion
- How quickly action was taken to remove or block the action of the toxin
- Whether any improvement was seen following treatment
- The severity of kidney damage
Some dogs fully recover with prompt treatment, but others can sustain permanent kidney damage or even die. Act quickly and follow your veterinarian’s instructions to give your pup the best chance possible.
How To Prevent Your Dog From Eating Grapes?
The best way to prevent your dog from eating grapes is to not keep them in the house. Just kidding, that’s not realistic for most people, especially if you have kids. Kids are obsessed with grapes, aren’t they?
The best practice is out of sight out of mind. Store them in sealed containers in the fridge, and never leave them on a table or counter where your dog can get to them. If you grow grapes in your garden or have wild grapes nearby, either fence them off or find another way to keep your dog away from them.
Educating yourself and others about the hazards grapes pose to dogs is also key. Many people, especially those without dogs, have no idea that grapes are toxic to dogs. So they might accidentally feed them grapes as a treat or snack
I know I’d be one of those people. I don’t typically subscribe to the “don’t feed dogs table scraps” thing. So, If I had no idea grapes were toxic, I’d surely have given one to a dog while inadvertently snacking. I always ask another dog owner if it’s ok to feed their dog though, so that would be my one saving grace. Providing they knew it was a terrible idea.
My point is knowledge is power, or in this case “knowledge is safety”.
You can also put signs on your fridge or in the pantry to remind kids, guests, and even yourself, that grapes are 100% off-limits for dogs. It may look funky but does that really matter?
What Are Some Safe Treat Options for Dogs?
While grapes are bad for dogs, there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables that are safe and healthy for them. Some examples are:
- Apples (without seeds and core)
- Bananas (no peel)
- Green beans
- Melons (without seeds and rind)
- Pumpkin (without seeds)
- Sweet potatoes
These fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other things that can provide various health benefits for your dog. They are also (mostly) low in calories and can help with weight management.
Introduce any new foods gradually over a period of weeks by slowly incorporating them into your pet’s usual food. Some dogs may have allergies or sensitivities to certain foods so you’ll want to keep an extra close eye on them if they’ve never had it before.
Other common fruits and vegetables that can be toxic to dogs are garlic, avocados, cherries, mushrooms, and tomatoes. We also compiled a handy list of what fruits dogs can and can’t eat that can be found here.