Beware your dog’s sweet tooth: Raisin toxicity can kill.
Have you ever been enjoying a piece of fruit cake or bunch of grapes, and wondered if your dog would enjoy a nibble too?
The overwhelming opinion from the veterinary community is — don’t! And that if your dog does ingest a grape product, contact your veterinarian immediately for treatment.
Intoxication in pets that have eaten fruits (grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants) from the common grape vine (vitis vinifera) is a potentially life-threatening condition, which can lead to acute renal failure. While veterinarians are familiar with these complications, pet owners are generally not.
“In a general practice setting, we see one case every two months. In an emergency medicine hospital, we often see one a week,” explains Dr Cynthia Rose, a veterinarian at the Granville Island Veterinary Hospital in Vancouver.
Swift action is key, Rose adds. “If you seek help quickly and follow your veterinarian’s recommendations, your pup has a good prognosis. However, if your pet has ingested grape products in the past three days and shows symptoms of kidney failure, the damage is often irreversible.”
A paper published in the Veterinary Record in 2009 tracked the outcome of 169 cases of grape product ingestion in dogs that had been taken to their veterinarians for treatment. While just over half of these dogs showed no symptoms, 40 per cent did develop clinical signs, including increased thirst, increased urination or no urination, decreased appetite, vomiting and lethargy. With treatment, 50 of these dogs made a full recovery, while 15 died or were euthanized as a result of renal failure.
Herein lies much of the uncertainty for owners. Since some dogs appear to tolerate ingesting grape products we tend to underestimate the potential risk to our pets.
Rose adds that it’s not possible to predict which dogs will become symptomatic and which will be OK.
“As far as we know right now, there are no breed, gender or age dispositions.” Furthermore, Rose explains that just because a dog has been unscathed after eating grapes once, does not necessarily mean it will be unaffected should it eat grapes again.
Veterinarians agree that increasing public awareness is key to reducing the number of pets that become sick from eating grape products.
I couldn’t agree more. Had my friend known about this risk when she visited me recently, my week might have been quite different. While our backs were turned, my spaniel Poppy dived into my visitor’s handbag and ate quarter of a cup of raisins.
Within minutes, I called my veterinary clinic to let them know we were on our way over, so that treatment could commence quickly. By acting fast, the prognosis was good. However, had I waited to see if the dog developed symptoms of toxicity, the prognosis could have been far worse.
“If the owners know a definitive amount of grapes/raisins that have been ingested and that can be accounted in the vomitous, we are in the clear. If not, charcoal can help bind toxic compounds from the raisins/grapes and proactive intravenous fluids therapy and kidney value monitoring for 48 hours is recommended,” Rose said.
Poppy was given apomorphine to make her vomit up as many of the raisins as possible. The vomit contained 60 raisins, but as we didn’t know exactly how many she had eaten to start with, treatment continued. She was given activated charcoal, put on IV fluids for two days, and had blood drawn every 12 hours to check her kidney function. Fortunately, she is now back home and seems to have made a full recovery.
Also luckily for us, the incident occurred when my regular clinic was still open. But, what should a concerned owner do if their dog eats grapes at 10 p.m. — is this a situation that can wait until morning, or does it warrant a visit to the 24 hour emergency clinic?
Dr Rose suggests consulting your veterinarian as soon as you are aware of the ingestion.
“The sooner the better. If you can induce vomiting within four hours and account for the grapes/raisins, your pet may be in the clear. However, the longer you wait the more irreversible the damage.”
According to a paper published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science in 2016 — “Poisoning episodes are generally due to lack of public knowledge of the serious health threat to dogs and cats that can be posed by these products.”
Hopefully this cautionary tale will help others to keep their pets safe.