Grapes are bad for dogs: True/False?

I can’t help thinking that the kind of person who feeds their dog grapes also takes them to a grooming salon in a little knitted vest, though I’m sure many more conventional dog lovers have thrown Rover a grape or two as a treat. Whether wool-covered or not, though, a dog’s kidneys can be fatally damaged from eating grapes.

This wasn’t discovered until recently and there are probably quite a few people who still don’t know. I assume I’m not the last one to find out — but if this is old news then rest assured that I’ve never fed a dog a grape, so no canine lives were imperilled by my ignorance.

Nobody really suspected a sinister role for grapes. They were even recommended as a sweet treat for dogs. Then, quite suddenly about a decade ago, researchers in the United States noticed that a lot of dogs were dying from acute kidney failure after eating grapes. A flurry of theories emerged to explain the outbreak. Was it pesticides, or mould or a new disease-causing microbe? No, no, no said the data.

It now looks like the surge in reported cases was caused by a surge in reporting, not of cases. Centralised reporting of poisonings allowed the picture to come together and toxicity that has probably been afflicting dogs since prehistoric times finally came to our attention.

It’s not just fresh grapes that have ill effects but also raisins, sultanas and dried currants (which, despite the name, are just another kind of grape). Grape seed extracts don’t seem to be a problem, it’s something in the flesh or skin, but that’s about as far as veterinary science has come to an explanation. We still don’t know what in the grapes pummels the kidneys, or how, or what other factors are involved.

So while the experts are still working on the details — staring at a lot of dead dogs and doing their best to figure out what’s going on — it’s too risky to let dogs have grapes. If you feed your dog grapes you’re barking mad.

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