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Can dogs eat grapes?

A bunch of red grapes on a table

Dogs love treats—especially when they’re being rewarded! And as any dog owner knows, there’s a huge variety of doggy treats available out there that are sure to please any canine. Unfortunately, many of those treats are packed with sugars, colors, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients that aren’t actually very good for your dog. 

That’s why more dog owners are turning to ‘real’ food as treats. ‘Real’ food includes anything naturally grown in the earth or that you can make at home: foods that you would eat yourself. This includes vegetables, fruits, and certain grains and pulses. 

But not all fruits and vegetables are safe! So, before you start tossing your dog anything that winds up on your own plate, it’s important to check what’s safe and what’s not. While healthy for you, some can be downright dangerous. 

Knowing which foods dogs can and can't eat is one of the most important things about being a dog owner. There are lots of foods out there that contain great nutritional benefits for both humans and dogs. Some you can even share together!

Fruits are a tricky one because of the enormous variety out there. Fruits contain skins, pits, stems, leaves, and other parts that aren’t easy to digest, but dogs don’t know this. While rich in nutrients, some fruits pose certain risks—especially if they contain stones.

Grapes are a good example. Grapes are small, sweet fruits that are botanically a berry, and come in a huge range of sizes and colors. They’re also rich in many vitamins and antioxidants and make for a delicious snack or addition to any meal. 

That’s the good stuff: but can dogs eat grapes?

Are grapes good for dogs to eat?

This one is a big NO. In fact, it’s one of the most dangerous ‘human foods’ you could possibly feed a dog! Even one or two grapes can have serious or fatal consequences in some dogs.

The same goes for raisins, which are dried grapes. 

So, why is this seemingly innocuous little fruit so harmful?

The risks of giving your dog grapes

It’s only recently that veterinarians have discovered how dangerous the fruits from the Vitis species can be. It turns out they cause kidney failure in dogs. This includes all grapes, currants, and raisins. 

It’s not yet known whether this problem has developed recently due to the way grapes are grown now, or if grapes have always been toxic and the problem has only been identified since toxicity cases began being recorded about 25 years ago. In any case, grapes are known to be the cause of numerous illnesses or deaths in dogs.

It appears that any type of grape can poison dogs: whether they’ve eaten seedless or seeded grape varieties, commercial or homegrown fruits, red or green grapes/raisins, organic or non-organic fruits, or even grape pressings from wineries. Foods containing grapes, raisins, and currants are also harmful, including raisin-based cereal, trail mix, baked goods, and granola.

Why are grapes so toxic? Well, no one really knows for sure, and so far no specific toxin has been identified. Some research has suggested that they may contain a mycotoxin, a toxic substance produced by a fungus or mold. But there are also theories that the toxic effect is due to a salicylate substance that is naturally present in grapes. Salicylates have an aspirin-like effect on the body, causing a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys. 

The mysterious circumstances surrounding grape poisoning makes it even more important that you keep your doggo well away! 

What’s really worrying is that there’s no known toxic dosage. That is, it’s uncertain just how many grapes a dog would have to eat before getting sick. The two most important factors in grape poisoning are:

  1. Dogs are more likely to become poisoned if they eat large amounts of grapes

  2. Some dogs are significantly more sensitive than others. While certain dogs may be able to tolerate the odd grape or two without any serious consequences, others may develop toxicity after just eating a very small amount. It’s almost impossible to know how any particular dog will react. 

What to do if your dog eats grapes

If your dog does accidentally wolf down a grape (or more), it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Keep a close eye on your dog in the meantime and watch for any signs of toxicity. The most common symptom of grape poisoning is vomiting, which usually occurs within 24 hours after he’s eaten the grape. 

Other symptoms that can take place within 12–24 hours after ingestion include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea 

More severe signs will occur 24-48 hours after ingestion, which are usually related to acute kidney failure. Signs of acute kidney failure include more vomiting and nausea, loss of appetite, uremic breath, diarrhea, abdominal pain, excessive thirst, and excessive urination.

If grape poisoning goes untreated, your dog’s kidneys may begin shutting down. This means he won’t be able to produce any urine. His blood pressure will also increase dramatically, which will usually lead to loss of consciousness or a coma. Unfortunately, once a dog’s kidneys have shut down and urine output has dropped, the prognosis is very poor.

Alternatives to serving your dog grapes

Of course, you should never have to go through the drama of grape poisoning because there are so many other foods your dog can eat! If you want to feed your dog fruit, try raspberries, blueberries, or even oranges. These are all rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, and perfectly safe in small amounts. Mix it up a bit by adding brightly-colored veggies to his diet, too: carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and even green beans. Again, keep things in moderation. Variety is the key!

Learn more about foods dogs can and can't eat

The article was written by Katie Stone on September 21, 2020.

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