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Help- My Dog Ate Grapes, What Should I Do?

Updated on March 27, 2015

Why are Grapes Poisonous To Dogs?

Although it is now well established that ingesting grapes or raisins is a common cause of kidney failure in dogs, the phenomenon has only been recognized over the last three decades. Undoubtedly there were many cases prior to this, but improved record-keeping and computerization of animal medical records have allowed collation and documentation of the problem. As these animals often present with kidney failure, and the cause of kidney disease is usually very difficult to establish clinically, many historical cases would have been recorded as renal failure of unknown origin (idiopathic renal failure).

Unfortunately, we are still not entirely sure what substance within the fruit is toxic to dogs, but it appears likely to be toxins produced by the fungus or must on the skin, rather than the grape itself. These mycotoxins then cause death of tubular cells in the drainage system of the kidneys, potentially causing severe illness.

What Is The Toxic Dose?

The number of grapes needed to produce signs of illness will probably vary depending on the amount of fungal growth found on the fruit, and because raisins are essentially concentrated grapes, then it takes far fewer to cause problems. Although other sources estimate that it can take about 10 grapes per kilogram bodyweight, I have a colleague that recently dealt with a fatal poisoning in an adult Labrador that had eaten only one small child's packet of raisins. My own Labrador puppy developed signs of mild renal insufficiency requiring intensive treatment after eating approximately 15-20 grapes, which would have equated to about one grape per kilogram, and so I would always urge caution when dealing with a dog known to have definitely eaten any amount of the fruit.

Puppies are cute- but not always too discerning!
Puppies are cute- but not always too discerning!

What Are The Signs Of Grape Poisoning?

Although the most serious problems arise as a result of acute kidney failure, the initial signs seen after ingestion are usually vomiting and diarrhea. Your dog is also likely to be depressed and quieter than usual. After 1-2 days you may notice an increase in your pet's thirst, and dehydration may be obvious as sunken eyes, a dry mouth, and prolonged skin tenting if the skin on the back of the neck is lifted.

Without treatment, it is possible for the symptoms to progress to severe kidney failure, with a lack of urine production and abdominal pain. A build up of nitrogenous waste products in the blood can cause foul-smelling breath, ulcers in the mouth, and shortness of breath. Severely affected pets may have seizures before death ensues.

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Tip - How To Make Your Dog Vomit At Home

Do not induce vomiting without first consulting your vet, but under his/her direction most animals can be made vomit by administering 1ml/kg of 3% hydrogen peroxide (available from drugstores) using a syringe or turkey baster. This can be life-saving if you cannot get to the surgery within the 2 hour 'golden period' following ingestion.

If My Dog Ate Grapes Can He Be Treated?

Yes! However, as with most poisonings, time is of the essence. If you can bring your dog to your veterinarian within 2 hours of ingestion then he/she can induce vomiting to prevent some or all of the toxin being absorbed. Feeding the dog activated charcoal or other protectant can also help prevent absorption in the early stages.

Further treatment in later stages involves supporting kidney function with intravenous fluids and electrolyte supplementation. If a large amount of toxin has been eaten then more intensive measures may include blood pressure monitoring and manipulation, as high blood pressure is a common complication with severe renal damage after grape poisoning. Dialysis or kidney transplantation are sometimes necessary to ensure a good outcome.

Ultimately, the prognosis for a dog that has eaten grapes depends on two things: how long has passed before treatment is initiated, and how many grapes or raisins were ingested. Not all animals that eat a few grapes will show signs of serious illness, but many will, and you should always seek veterinary attention immediately if you suspect or know that your pet has been poisoned,

Diagnostic Testing

Your observations of your pet are vital, as there is no specific test to determine whether an animal has eaten grapes, but other clinical and laboratory tests such as blood pressure measurement, blood chemistry and cell counts, and urine analysis are vital in order to provide optimal care, so be prepared for your veterinarian to recommend that these are carried out for diagnosis and monitoring.

Has Your Dog Eaten Grapes?

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