Our furry companions always seem to be interested in what we are eating. My dog, in particular, will look at me with a single question in his eyes: “Share?”
It warms our hearts and puts a smile on our doggie’s face when we give them a little treat, but we always must consider: is it safe to share? Can my dog eat grapes?
Not all foods are safe to give dogs (and cats, too). One of the most common questions pet owners ask me as a veterinarian is,”what can I safely feed my dog?”
At the top of this list is the grape. Grapes have been a part of the human diet for a millennia. We turn grapes into juice, wine, oils (from the seeds) and ancient recipes even include them in breads. You may have noticed however, that grapes aren’t a part of your dog’s daily diet in commercially prepared foods. Even the most “whole foods” approach to commercial dog foods lack this sweet fruit.
The reason for this is simple: grapes are toxic to dogs.
Why are Grapes Toxic?
Although it’s easy to say that grapes are not fit for dogs, it’s much harder to explain why. Even as a veterinarian I can’t fully answer that question.
Experts are not sure why grapes are toxic, as the exact compound within the grape that causes problems is currently unknown. Cats are also reported to suffer ill effects after eating grapes or raisins. Recent information suggests that the toxic substance is found within the flesh of the grape and not in the seed. Pesticides and fungicides that are used in grape production are not thought to be associated with grape toxicity.
How do Grapes Make My Dog Sick?
Eating grapes and raisins can cause acute kidney failure in dogs. The toxic dose is unknown and highly variable. This may explain why some dogs get sick after eating grapes and others do not. The level of toxicity may be dependent on the individual’s own digestion. It is possible that a Jack Russell eats 1-2 raisins and does not get sick, while a larger Border Collie may die from eating the same amount.
In my experience as a veterinarian, I have known many dogs over the years that could eat grapes and not have a problem. Most of these dogs were larger breeds, such as Labradors. Often these Labs would steal a raisin or two from a snacking kid and didn’t eat them regularly. Even with these experiences, I never recommend that dogs eat grapes or raisins.
Veterinary toxicologists Patricia Talcott, DVM, PhD, DABVT and Michael Peterson, DVM, MS say that toxicity can be seen with just 1-2 grapes being eaten by a 10-pound dog. Another study reported that as little as 0.4 oz per kg of body weight can cause irreversible kidney failure. That’s the equivalent of 1 grape being eaten by a 2-3 pound Chihuahua puppy.
Signs of poisoning start within a few hours and can include:
- Poor appetite
- Abdominal discomfort
- Will not drink water
- Less or no urine production
My dog ate grapes! What do I do?
If your dog has eaten grapes, it is very important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian may instruct you on how to induce vomiting at home before coming in to the hospital. 2-3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide given orally to a 20-40 pound dog may cause vomiting. It is best to check with your vet for an exact dose. If your dog does not vomit within 15-20 minutes of giving the hydrogen peroxide, your veterinarian may have to use prescription products at the hospital to induce vomiting.
Vomiting can prevent toxicity if it is done soon after the grapes were eaten. Unless you know exactly how many grapes were eaten and can find all of them in the vomit, most dogs will need further supportive care.
Your veterinarian will give substances that can prevent absorption of the grape toxins, such as activated charcoal. Blood and urine tests will be done periodically to monitor kidney function. Intravenous fluid therapy is necessary around the clock in most cases. Even with early treatment, the prognosis is guarded. The outcome could be very bad or the dog could survive and do well.
Owners should be aware that even with early treatment, the kidneys can still completely shut down from the toxin. When the kidneys completely shut down, owners often elect euthanasia or must proceed with costly and time consuming dialysis.
My Dog’s Supplement Contains Grape-Seed Oil, Should I Be Concerned?
Grape-seed oil is a popular additive to both human and canine health supplements, as it contains a large amount of “good fats” such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids support skin, brain and digestive health. Grape-seed oil also contains a lot of Vitamin E, which can also be beneficial for skin, heart and brain health.
The toxic substance appears to be in the fleshy part of the grape and not associated with the fat component (oil) found in the grape seed. It is not likely that the small amount of grape-seed oil found in a health supplement would hurt your dog. However, other sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, like fish oil or sea buckthorn berry oil, are safer alternatives.
When selecting a healthy treat for your dog, steer clear of anything containing grapes or raisins, just to be safe. Keep all grapes and raisins where your dog cannot reach them, high in a locked cupboard or refrigerator. If your dog likes to rummage through the garbage, be sure to keep it out of reach if there are grapes around.
Wearing Grape Costumes
These are perfectly harmless to dogs!