The Golden Retriever’s Kryptonite: Why Are Grapes So Bad?

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While many fruits are safe and even healthy to give to a Golden Retriever in moderation, some are not. At the top of the list is one bad fruit for Golden Retrievers that is toxic and potentially deadly. That fruit is the grape and pet owners should consider that fruit to be the Golden Retriever’s kryptonite. 

Can Golden Retrievers Eat Grapes?

I discussed the best (and worst) fruits to feed a Golden Retriever in a previous article. In that article, I listed the grape as #1 on the list of worse fruits and touched upon it briefly. However, because it is such a potentially toxic fruit, I thought it was best to take a much deeper dive into why the grape is a no-no fruit. 

So, let’s begin with can Golden Retrievers eat grapes or grape-based products?

Golden Retrievers cannot not, and should not, eat grapes. Grapes, including raisins and currants, can cause kidney failure in dogs. Pet owners should also be aware of mixed food products containing raisins or currants such as raisin bran cereals, trail mix, granola mix, and baked goods. 

All grapes, regardless of type, are a potential issue. Green or purple, seeds or seedless, organic or non-organic, consider all grapes toxic to your Golden Retriever. In fact, consider ALL products containing these ingredients as toxic to your dog. 

Recommended reading. While grapes are the worst fruits to give a Golden Retriever, others are also potentially toxic. To find out which fruits are acceptable or even good, and the ones to avoid, consider reading this article: 

Can Golden Retrievers Eat Fruit? (Good Fruit Options Versus Bad)

And, if you’re interested in vegetables, this article will provide guidance on the best and worst choices for Golden Retrievers: 

Golden Retrievers: Can They Eat Vegetables?

What Are the Symptoms of Grape Toxicity in a Golden Retriever?

Pet owners need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of grape toxicity. However, even if your Golden Retriever shows no signs or mild symptoms, it is vital to contact your veterinarian. 

Signs and symptoms of grape toxicity in a Golden Retriever include: 

  • Vomiting with 24 hours of ingestion
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness and reluctance to move
  • Diarrhea
  • The abdomen will be tender to the touch (abdominal pain)
  • Dehydration 
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination

Keep in mind that many of these symptoms begin within 24 to 48 hours when kidney damage has already started. Specifically, when kidney damage has started, the dog will show signs of excessive thirst, urination, abdominal pain, lethargy, and diarrhea. 

As the kidney damage progresses, your Golden Retriever may not be able to urinate, and its blood pressure will increase substantially. There is potential for the dog to slip into a coma at this stage of damage.

Generally speaking, when urination has ceased, and kidney damage has progressed, the prognosis is not good. 

Losing a Golden Retriever for any reason can be devastating. If you ever need help with some coping strategies I wrote an article on how to deal with the death of a Golden Retriever. You can read that article here:

Coping Steps: Healing the Loss of Your Golden Retriever

Keep in mind that there is no test to diagnose grape poisoning. The symptoms will often mimic other causes, including poisoning from other substances.

However, suppose you have not seen your dog eat a grape. In that case, the veterinarian will base a diagnosis of potential grape poisoning on discussing the dog’s diet and what was available in the house. 

Your veterinarian may also recommend some diagnostic tests. For example, your vet may suggest blood tests, a serum profile, and a urinalysis to diagnose the amount of damage to the kidneys.

So the key takeaway is this: DON’T WAIT. Get the dog to the vet immediately if you suspect your Golden Retriever has ingested grapes, raisins, or currants. The faster treatment can be administered, the better the outcome.  

Why Are Grapes Toxic to a Golden Retriever? 

What makes the grape so bad for dogs is perplexing. After all, it is such a small and delicious fruit. To us humans it’s healthy food. However, to our Golden Retrievers, it’s a potential time bomb.

So, why are grapes so toxic to a Golden Retriever?

Currently, the exact cause of why grapes are toxic to a Golden Retriever is unknown. Theories include toxicity from mycotoxin, a toxic agent produced from fungus and molds. Other theories include grapes containing salicylate and, most recently, tartaric acid – both of which can cause damage to the kidneys.  

However, there has been no definitive agent identified as the cause of grape toxicity to dogs at this time. 

How Many Grapes Can a Golden Retriever Eat?

Considering so little is known about what agent in grapes causes toxicity to Golden Retrievers, it is natural for pet owners to wonder how many grapes can a Golden Retriever eat? Is any amount safe? 

As a general rule, NO amount of grapes, raisins, or currents is safe for your Golden Retrieve. Unfortunately, researchers have not identified precisely what makes grapes so toxic, so a safe dose has not been established. As such, there is no way of knowing what amount of grapes may be harmful to your dog. 

You may have heard the saying, “the dose makes the poison.” However, when it comes to grapes and dogs, researchers are not sure what that “dose” actually is.

First, as we discussed earlier, there has been no toxic agent that has been identified in grapes. That’s problematic because it’s difficult to understand the cause and process involved if no known agent has been identified.

Therefore, it is difficult to predict how many grapes can cause issues when you don’t know what substance or agent is causing the poisoning. 

Secondly, is individual differences in dogs. No amount is safe because we just don’t know how it will react with a certain dog. Why? Because it seems that some dogs are more sensitive to grape toxicity than others. 

So it’s impossible to know at this time whether your Golden Retriever will be more sensitive to the toxicity of grapes than another dog. The best course then is to assume the worst (a high sensitivity) and avoid any ingestion of the fruit.  

Lastly, is how much of the fruit has been ingested. The greater the amount consumed, the more poisonous it is to your dog.

Put another way, even a Golden Retriever with low toxic sensitivity to the fruit will be poisoned if it ingests too much. The problem is we don’t know what too much is. So the dog might be fine eating two grapes, while four becomes toxic. 

What Happens if a Golden Retriever Eats One Grape?

It happens. You’re eating some grapes, and one falls on the floor, and your Golden Retriever gobbles it up before you can reach it. Now what? 

What happens if your Golden Retriever eats one grape? 

If your Golden Retriever eats one grape, contact your veterinarian or animal poison control immediately. There is no way to predict what amount might be toxic, so it’s best not to take any risks with your dog’s health. The sooner your dog is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis.  

Time is critical if your Golden Retriever has ingested a grape. A veterinarian may instruct you over the phone on what to do, including inducing vomiting. However, it’s best to not try to induce vomiting unless ordered by a veterinarian. 

The best course of action is to get the dog to the veterinarian right away. As discussed in the next section, your veterinarian will initiate procedures to decontaminate your Golden Retriever. 

How Is Grape Poisoning Treated in a Golden Retriever? 

Suppose your Golden Retriever has ingested grapes or grape-related foods. In that case, your veterinarian’s goal will be to decontaminate your Golden Retriever to treat grape poisoning. 

Grape poisoning in a Golden Retriever is treated by inducing vomiting and administering active charcoal. Vomiting removes the grapes from the stomach, and the active charcoal prevents the poison from being absorbed into the body. Intravenous fluids will be administered to treat dehydration and support the kidneys. 

So the goal of treatment is to remove and block toxins and prevent or minimize kidney damage. 

The first step of the treatment is to remove the grapes from the stomach. Grapes can stay in a dog’s stomach for up to four to six hours. Vomiting is induced to remove the grapes and prevent additional toxins from the grape from being released into the body from digestion. 

Active charcoal is the next step to block additional toxins from being absorbed by the intestines and stomach into the body. 

Your Golden Retriever will likely be hospitalized for up to 48 hours or longer, depending on how severe the poisoning is. Intravenous fluids are also an essential treatment course. Fluids are used to treat dehydration and help flush and support the kidneys. IV fluids are often administered for up to 48 hours. 

Your veterinarian may administer additional medication to address other issues, such as blood pressure, vomiting, and diarrhea, and to provide additional support to protect the kidneys. 

The prognosis for your Golden Retriever is dependent on a variety of factors, including:

  • how soon treatment is administered after ingestion
  • the number of grapes ingested,
  • how far the symptoms have progressed, and
  • the amount of damage to the kidneys. 

The biggest issue is kidney damage. Kidneys can not regenerate themselves, so the greater the kidney damage, the worse the prognosis. If kidney damage is severe and no urine is produced, the prediction is dire. 

It can not be stressed enough that time is of the essence. If you even remotely suspect ingestion of grapes – even one – get your Golden Retriever to the veterinarian immediately.

Final Thoughts

While grapes are toxic to Golden Retrievers, consider that all food products made with grapes are potentially harmful. Raisins and currants, as well as cereals or any food with grape products, should be avoided. 

The best course of action is prevention. Keep all grapes and grape products from your Golden Retriever. Make sure grapes are out of reach of your dog and are in a container that prevents grapes from falling on the floor. 

If you have children in the house, be mindful of dropped grapes, and teach the child that grapes and raisins harm the dog. 

In the case of grapes and Golden Retrievers, grapes are very much a Golden Retriever’s kryptonite. 


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