By Dr. Clare Peterson
It seems these days, when you are browsing social media, that everything is bad for you. Everything causes cancer, you should only feed your kids ‘x’ amount of sugar, grains are destroying your immune system etc. Its hard to decipher what is actually harmful to us or our pets and what is just hype.
At the Emergency Clinic we see that more and more pet owners these days recognise the common toxicities like rodenticide (rat bait), chocolate, ibuprofen and are therefore able to get their beloved pet to a vet ASAP for treatment. Unfortunately, one of the most potentially harmful toxicities is still mostly unknown by a lot of pet owners.
Grapes are harmful to our furry friends in their fresh form and are even more dangerous when dried to sultanas or raisins. But aren’t grapes healthy? We give them to our children as a sweet treat and they make wine, so come on, how can they be bad?
I agree it seems strange. Grapes were my candy as a child. I must confess that I loved them so much I used to always share them with our family dog. ‘Ben’ used to love playing with them for a good half hour, rolling them down the backyard hill for a game of chase until he would finally eat it.
As an emergency veterinarian, this memory now makes me shudder as I have seen, all too many times, how deadly these sweet little treats can be.
What makes grapes and raisins so harmful?
We actually don’t know the exact mechanism of grape toxicity but we do know the terrible affects that they have on the kidneys. Affected dogs and cats develop acute kidney failure, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. So, if they are so deadly, why did my childhood pet survive despite my generosity with snacks? How many grapes and raisins do they have to eat before the dose is toxic? The specific toxic dose of grapes and raisins is also unknown. It’s starting to seem like we don’t know much about it, hey? There is not a clear dose-toxicity relationship determined to this day
What we do know is that as few as 4-5 grapes in a dog around 10kgs in size is fatal. Signs of toxicity are seen as early as an hour after ingestion and can be fatal within 72hrs.
What should you be looking for if you think your pet has ingested grapes or raisins?
The signs to look out for if you suspect that your pet has ingested grapes are:
- lethargy (tiredness)
- going off their food
- abdominal pain
Unfortunately, as you can see all the signs are pretty non-specific, so it is important to get them checked if you suspect they have had access.
So what do you do if your pet ingests grapes?
Get them to your vet, or if it is after hours the closest Emergency Vet, as soon as possible. If your animal has eaten them within the last 1-4hrs vomiting can then be induced in a controlled environment. Activated charcoal can be given and fluids administered to support the kidneys. The vet can also then run tests to find out the level to which your pet has been affected.
The mystery that surrounds the exact mechanism for grape toxicity and its toxic dose likely contributes to why a lot of people don’t know that they are indeed toxic. The message that we need people to share with other pet owners is that grapes and raisins are very toxic to the kidneys and by the time we are seeing the actual signs of toxicity, the effects are well on their way to being fatal. As there is no known toxic dose all cases of ingestion, or suspected ingestion, should be treated with caution and seen by a vet ASAP. Whether you have a 40kg Rottweiler or a 3kg Chihuahua. It’s just not worth the risk.
As valued members of our families it is hard to resist the temptation to share our food with our pets, especially when they give you the ‘Puss-in-Boots’, ‘love me’ eyes. The important thing is to
be aware of exactly what is in the foods we are offering under the table, so we can keep them safe and hopefully avoid unwanted trips to the after hours vet.