Whether your toddler dropped raisins on the floor or you’re deciding whether to use them as a training snack, it’s important to know that raisins are toxic to dogs. Raisins are dried grapes, which are also toxic to our canine companions in their original fruit form.
If your pup’s managed to pick some from your counter while you weren’t looking, this is something to take very seriously and will likely require veterinary intervention. The extent of the harm will depend on many variables, so it’s important to consult with your vet.
In this article, we’ll look at why raisins are considered toxic, just how toxic they are, and what you should do if your dog ate raisins. We’ll also look at what you can expect, once you contact or visit your local veterinarian.
What Are Raisins?
Raisins, sultanas, and currants are naturally dried grapes. All of these, along with seeded and non-seeded grapes, are a concern if ingested as they have the potential to be fatally toxic to your dog.
Raisins are abundant in snack foods, and they are commonly found in products, such as cereals, granola, protein or cereal bars, oatmeal, cookies, flapjacks, malt or raisin bread, trail, and dried fruit mixes, as well as several kids’ snacks. While grapes are also toxic to dogs, grape juice, grape jelly, and grape extract are usually not as much of a concern.
What Do We Know About Raisin Toxicity?
Until recently, raisin toxicity has been poorly understood. It was discovered in the 1980s when the first computerized toxicity database started to show a trend of renal failure in dogs that had eaten grapes or raisins.
Once the connection had been made, cases flooded in, but vets were still left struggling to understand just why raisins are so toxic to dogs – and how to predict which dogs would be affected.
There have been suggestions over the last 20 years that a mycotoxin (produced by molds) or a salicylate acid found in grapes and raisins could be responsible for the toxicity. However, tartaric acid is now suspected to be a more likely underlying cause of the toxicity.
Links were identified by a clever emergency veterinarian following a dog that suffered vomiting and acute renal failure (similar clinical signs to those seen in raisin toxicity cases) following ingestion of homemade playdough.
With the help of members of the Animal Poison Control Centre (APCC), this has been investigated further. Two common components found in both homemade playdough and grapes were identified as potassium bitartrate and potassium salt of tartaric acid (cream of tartar).
Due to a broad tolerance and safety window seen in people, this component was previously overlooked as a possible toxin. Further investigations are ongoing, but knowing what makes raisins so toxic to dogs is the first step in developing better protocols for poisoning cases.
What Happens When Dogs Eat Raisins?
Vomiting is the first common symptom seen in the initial 24 hours following raisin ingestion. Other gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea and poor appetite may also be seen.
More serious signs, which may indicate kidney damage, may take up to 48 hours to develop. These include prolonged vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, excessive thirst and urination, abdominal pain, and bad breath.
As exposure to the poison continues, your dog may become less responsive, stop producing urine, and have difficulties controlling its blood pressure.
Other symptoms of raisin poisoning include:
- Poor appetite
- Signs of nausea e.g. lip-smacking and salivation
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- A decline in mental status
It is important to note that the early presenting symptoms can occur with many different diseases. This means you don’t know if raisins were ingested, it can be quite difficult to predict the outcome. This may impact your vet’s ability to diagnose your pup and begin the correct treatment. Please consider all food that’s been eaten and possible toxin exposure when discussing the situation with your veterinarian.
Kidney damage causing kidney failure is the biggest concern. This can occur following the ingestion of even a small amount of raisins. The kidneys are vital for eliminating a number of the body’s toxins as well as controlling circulating blood pressure, so damage is serious.
Acute kidney injury caused by raisin toxicity can sometimes be managed and clinical signs reversed, but the prognosis may be guarded as the kidneys cannot repair themselves.
How Many Raisins Will Harm A Dog?
Unfortunately, there is no established toxic dose for raisin poisoning in dogs as the signs can be variable and unpredictable. Some dogs appear to be more ‘sensitive’ than others to raisin poisoning. And the condition can be highly variable.
While bigger dogs can usually withstand larger amounts of other toxic foods, it’s not the same with raisins. Even one raisin can have a negative impact on a dog as large as an English Mastiff. This means that vets have to take any raisin intake seriously in a dog, regardless of whether they’ve eaten them previously and survived.
My Dog Ate Raisins. What Now?
If your canine companion just ingested raisins, there are a few steps you’ll immediately want to take. Follow these steps to get your canine companion the attention they need right away.
Step 1: Call Your Veterinarian Or A Poison Control Hotline
Be prepared to tell them the breed and size of your dog, the type of raisins or grapes they have eaten, and approximately how many they may have taken. You’ll also need to tell them whether or not you are 100% sure raisins were consumed, or if you notice signs of toxicity. They will be able to advise you on best how to proceed based on your circumstances.
A free resource in the US is the National Capital Poison Center which can be reached at 800-222-1222.
Step 2: Follow Your Vet’s Instructions
Your veterinarian will make an assessment as to the best course of action. If your dog has eaten raisins in the last 4-6 hours, your veterinarian may suggest making them sick. Never force your pup to vomit after eating raisins unless you have been instructed to do so by your vet.
It’s more likely that your vet will recommend an appointment so your pup can be sick safely, and so they can administer other treatments. Be sure to follow your vet’s instructions to ensure the best outcome for your pet.
What Will My Veterinarian Do?
The first thing your vet will do is called ‘decontamination.’ This involves trying to reduce the amount of toxin available for your dog to absorb. If your pup has not vomited, your veterinarian can give an injection to cause vomiting. This will help remove as many raisins as possible. Your vet might also give your dog some activated charcoal. Activated charcoal binds to the toxin and prevents a dog’s body from absorbing it.
If you’re confident that all the raisins eaten were removed, no further treatment may be required. It may be recommended that you bring Fido back to the vet for a blood test. This will help monitor kidney function for a day or two.
However, if it is not thought the toxin has been completely eliminated (because an unknown amount was eaten, or some may already have been absorbed), your dog may need to be hospitalized for blood tests and a fluid ‘drip’ (intravenous fluids) to support the kidneys.
Monitoring kidney function can be done with daily blood samples, as well as monitoring urine output and blood pressure. Symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain can also be controlled with supportive medication administered by your veterinarian.
Could Pet Insurance Help?
If your pet insurance covers exam fees and your dog needs to be examined, there is a good chance your policy will reimburse those costs based on your policy details. However, if you are a new customer, vet expenses will not be covered until after your policy’s defined waiting periods, so signing up once you have an existing health concern is not going to help this time. Pre-existing conditions are not covered by any current pet insurance plans.
This is why it is a great idea to sign up for a pet insurance policy when your pet is young and relatively healthy to ensure you will be covered when you need it most.
Will My Dog Be Okay?
If you see your dog eat raisins and get treatment quickly, he is likely to have a very good prognosis. However, dogs that end up with symptoms of kidney damage have a poorer prognosis. In this case, your vet may advise that you consider euthanasia to prevent suffering.
In one early study, 50% of dogs with symptoms died after raisin poisoning. However, treatment has improved, and one study suggested that three-quarters of dogs survived even if they had symptoms after eating raisins.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will one raisin kill a dog?
It is unlikely that one raisin would be enough to kill a dog, but in several dogs that are particularly sensitive, it is possible that even a small amount can be very serious. Since we don’t know why some dogs get symptoms and some do not, it’s best to contact your veterinarian after any raisin ingestion.
Is there a raisin toxicity dose calculator?
Unfortunately, due to the unpredictable effects of raisins and grapes on each individual dog, a raisin toxicity dose calculator is not available.
Will all dogs develop kidney failure if they eat raisins?
Only a very small number of dogs will go on to develop a fatal acute kidney injury after eating raisins if they are made to vomit. As long as you act quickly, it is likely your pup will recover.
Can dogs eat cooked raisins, such as raisin bread?
Cooked raisins and raisin bread are just as toxic to dogs as uncooked raisins and grapes. If cooked raisins were consumed, you should follow the steps outlined above to give your pet the best chance of recovery.
How to avoid toxin ingestion or exposure?
It is advised to keep all raisin products in a safe place in your kitchen, out of reach of your pup, to prevent him or her from eating raisins. Discuss the risks with friends and family members (including your children) to help avoid accidental exposure.
Be mindful of possible toxin risks in situations such as children’s parties or picnics, where dogs are not being watched closely – consider shutting dogs away.
Are other species affected by raisin toxicity?
Cats appear to be much less likely to ingest raisins, but there have been a few reported cases of toxicity in this species. Raisins do not appear to be toxic to birds.
What other toxins should my dog avoid?
Chocolate (particularly dark chocolate or large amounts of milk chocolate), grapes, antifreeze, alcohol, human medicines, some household plants, and flowers e.g. daffodils and tulips, are a few of the common household poisons you should be aware of as a pet owner.
Raisins and grapes contain naturally occurring toxins for our canine companions, and ingestion should be taken seriously in all instances. Caution needs to be taken as dogs can be unpredictably sensitive to different amounts and on different occasions, even if previous exposure has been seen.
Importantly, if you act quickly, your dog is likely to make full recovery following raisin ingestion. The longer your dog is left without treatment, the higher the chance of problems.