By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
Research has shown that raisins may stand to benefit your well-being,1 but possibly not for your pet. In recent years, grapes and raisin poisoning has surged. Researchers cannot identify the mechanism that underlies raisin poisoning in animals — the only thing they’re sure of is that there’s a chance it can cause health complications in dogs and other pets, along with a high risk of mortality.2,3,4 What’s interesting is that in some dogs, raisins may not cause poisoning (and any related symptoms) at all.
There is a plausible theory that may explain the rise in grape and raisin poisoning. In 2016, I interviewed Melissa Gardner, an intelligence specialist working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). She believes that grapes from California contain high amounts of cryolite, a fluoride-based pesticide that began usage in the 1980s.
Towards the end of the decade, veterinarians noticed that grape and raisin toxicity increased in dogs. To know more about our conversation, read my article “These Popular Human Snacks Used to Be Safe for Dogs.”
Are Raisins Bad for Dogs?
According to the journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology, consumption of grapes or raisins (once it reaches a certain amount per kilogram of body weight) can cause renal failure in dogs, which can be fatal if not treated immediately.5 This finding is supported by another study.6
Interdisciplinary Toxicology notes the following symptoms related to renal failure, which can appear six to 24 hours following high amounts of raisin (or grape) ingestion:7
If any of the aforementioned symptoms appear, head over to your nearest veterinarian immediately for diagnosis. A urinalysis indicating proteinuria, glucosuria, microscopic haematuria and crystalluria (rarely) can indicate raisin poisoning.8 However, in some dogs, raisins or grapes may not cause any symptoms at all. As mentioned earlier, problems only occur once a dog consumes a certain number of grapes or raisins. I myself have used grape seed extract to treat dogs, and have seen positive results.
Certainly, more studies are required to determine the exact process on how grapes or raisins can cause health problems in your beloved pet. This can certainly reduce the guesswork regarding the circumstances as to what dog can or cannot consume grapes/raisins.
What You Should Do if Your Dog Eats Lots of Raisins
As mentioned in the study published in Interdisciplinary Toxicology, raisins and grapes are highly toxic to dogs if consumed in high amounts. There’s some good news, though: Researchers note that they are slow to digest in an animal’s stomach, which can give you enough time to seek treatment when symptoms do appear.
In fact, whole grapes and raisins have been found in the stomach even when consumed the night before. However, that doesn’t mean you should relax, as symptoms may also manifest right away and cause distress to your pet.9 If you discover that your dog ate raisins, follow these steps:
- Contact a veterinarian right away for advice.
- If you’re unable to bring your dog to a veterinarian right away, you may induce vomiting by squirting 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, with the amount depending on the dog’s weight.
- To compute for the amount, it should be 2 milliliters per kilogram of body weight, but no more than 45 milliliters.10
- To flush the liquid down your dog’s throat, you can use a needleless syringe or a turkey baster.11
Once your dog has vomited, take them to a veterinarian immediately for intravenous fluid (IV) therapy to help rehydrate and repair their kidneys. If you were unable to induce vomiting, a gastric lavage will be performed to remove the raisins.12 Vomiting may save your dog’s life, but under no circumstances it should be performed if your dog is:13
- Having breathing problems
- In a state of shock or distress
Do not make your dog vomit if you’re unsure if they’ve eaten a raisin. If you’re not sure what your dog has eaten and exhibits troublesome symptoms, it is best to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis.
Can Cats Eat Raisins?
Cats are less likely to eat grapes and raisins compared to dogs.14 However, that doesn’t mean when they consume these snacks, they won’t develop symptoms. Interestingly, a study found that cats are more likely at risk of developing complications like renal failure when eating lilies as compared to eating grapes.15 Either way, it’s important to keep all grapes and raisins, as well as lilies, out of reach from cats and dogs to avoid problems.
Don’t Leave Raisins (or Grapes) Out in the Open
The simplest way to prevent your pets from eating raisins is to store this food properly away from their curious paws. This will help save you lots of stress and you’ll feel a whole lot safer knowing that your furry friends won’t eat something that could lead to health issues while you’re away from home.
But if you notice that they consumed a single grape or raisin and no problems appeared, it may be safe to feed them these snacks — but only occasionally and in very minute amounts. In addition, you need to keep chocolate, coffee, garlic and onions out of their reach, as these foods are known to cause health complications in animals as well.16
Frequently Asked Questions About Raisins for Dogs
Q: What happens if a dog eats raisins?
A: When your dog eats a grape or a raisin, a variety of symptoms may appear, such as vomiting, loss of appetite, dehydration and lethargy. In severe cases, your dog may experience seizures or become comatose.17 However, not all dogs show symptoms of poisoning after eating grapes or raisins.
Q: Can raisins kill dogs?
A: Yes. In one study that looked at 43 dogs who ate either grapes or raisins, 12 percent died, while 35 percent were euthanized due to failure to respond to treatment.18
Q: What to do if your dog has eaten raisins?
A: If your dog has eaten raisins, it’s best to take them to your nearest veterinarian for immediate treatment. If that’s not possible, you may induce vomiting, and then take them to the veterinarian for proper treatment.19