Why are grapes toxic?

While you may have heard before to not feed grapes or raisins to your dogs forfear of kidney damage, the reason why they can be so toxic has been a mystery.However, recently a new idea has emerged that might finally help us figure outwhat is going on! A group of veterinarians from the ASPCA Animal PoisonControl Center and two hospitals described in a letter to the editor of themost recent Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association thattartaric acid (which cream of tartar is made from) may be the part of grapesthat cause them to be toxic to pets. The amount of tartaric acid can vary ingrapes by their type, how they were grown, and how ripe they are, which couldexplain why some pets get very sick while others seem unaffected after eatingsimilar amounts of grapes or raisins. There is still a lot of research andwork still to do, but here’s more on this new hypothesis.

When should I be worried?

Studies looking at the amount of grapes and raisins needed to cause problemshave shown there is a large range and each dog can respond differently. Thismay be in part to how grapes change throughout the ripening process and weneed more studies to know how best to treat dogs that have eaten grapes orraisins. If you are worried that your dog may have eaten any food item ormedication that could harm them, you should call your veterinarian and ananimal poison control center, such as the ASPCA’s animal poison control, thatcan help determine how concerned you should be and guide treatmentrecommendations.

How is this related to snacks for dogs?

While many fruits and vegetables can be great snacks for pets, you shouldavoid feeding pets grapes and raisins. Until we know more about whethertartaric acid is the cause of grape toxicity, and, if so, what doses could beharmful to dogs, it is probably a good idea to avoid giving your dogcommercial or homemade foods with cream of tartar as an ingredient at thistime. Cream of tartar can be found in many baked goods, so it can be helpfulto check the ingredient list before deciding to share a treat with your pets.This is an additional reason to be extra cautious with homemade play doughrecipes that can often include cream of tartar along with very high levels ofsalt (and these high salt levels can cause neurologic issues and be life-threatening)! We have also seen a few homemade dog treats (including the dogversion of human snickerdoodle cookies) that contain cream of tartar as one ofthe ingredients, so you should always check homemade dog treat recipes toensure that they do not contain any toxic ingredients before making them foryour furry friends.

Written in conjunction with veterinary student, Amanda Simoneau.

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