Monday, September 24, 2007

Are Grapes and Raisins Really Poisonous to Dogs?

It turns out that raisins—and grapes—can be poisonous to dogs. The trend of poisonings was noticed first around 1989 when dogs that had eaten the fruit developed ARF, also known as kidney failure.

Between January 2001 and August 2004, more than 200 calls were made to the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) involving dogs that had potentially eaten grapes or raisins.

The exact mechanism by which grapes and raisins cause kidney failure is still unknown. Theories include pesticides, heavy metals, or mycotoxins (fungal material) on the skin of the grapes, but the fruit implicated in the deaths of the dogs has been tested and returned with negative results. Even when grapes were consumed off the vine in a family’s backyard, homeowners’ claims were that no pesticides or fertilizers had been used.

Poisonings have occurred from both seeded and seedless grapes, and from fruit purchased from a grocery store and picked off the vine. Nor does the variety of grape or brand of raisin seem
to matter. The amount a dog needs to eat to cause illness varies. Poisonings have been documented to occur in dogs who have eaten anywhere from a single serving to a pound of raisins.

What are the symptoms of grape and raisin poisoning? Sensitive dogs have a risk of initial gastrointestinal upset, followed by acute renal failure. Vomiting often occurs within the first few hours and the partially digested grapes or raisins are frequently found in the vomit and fecal material. Subsequent symptoms may include diarrhea, depression, excessive thirst and signs of abdominal pain. These signs can last from several days to several weeks.

If treatment isn’t sought immediately, ARF can develop within 24 to 72 hours. When the kidneys fail, a dog’s body is unable to filter the blood and excrete waste in the urine. Once urine is no longer being produced, most dogs die or must be euthanized.

Without understanding exactly how raisins and grapes cause toxicity, all cases of ingestion should be considered potentially dangerous. However, today, with a better understanding of the symptoms and progression of the illness, dogs can be treated successfully to prevent ARF.

The key is early recognition and decontamination. For a dog that is known to have ingested raisins or grapes, inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal helps to prevent absorption of potential toxins. In all cases of ingestion, however, a veterinarian should be contacted immediately to provide professional medical attention.

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