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There are many different toxins that can affect our pets. Many of these are toxic to humans and are therefore well known. Others, however are only toxic to animals and owners may be unaware of the risks they pose.

One example of this is grapes and sultanas, which can cause kidney failure in dogs. It is currently unknown which substance within the grape causes the damage but research has shown it comes from the watery internal section. The seed and skin do not appear to cause the problem. Because sultanas are the concentrated form of the grape they are more toxic per gram than grapes. Any quantity may be potentially toxic but in reported cases so far a minimum of 20grams/kg of grapes or 3grams/kg of sultanas have been ingested before kidney failure occurred. It also appears that not every dog is susceptible - some animals can tolerate large quantities of grapes or raisins without problem. It is not known which individual risk factors exist.

When first eaten, the pet may have gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Following this the kidneys begin to fail and the dog starts dinking more, becomes lethargic and inappetent. At this point urine production may stop and the condition is very critical.

It is very important to contact your vet if you have seen your pet eat grapes or sultanas. They will usually induce vomiting immediately and use charcoal to absorb any left over toxin. Intravenous fluids may be started to support the kidenys and to further help excretion of the toxin. Blood tests are used to check the kidney function and decide if further treatment is required. If identified early the prognosis for recovery is good but in some cases the kidney damage is too severe.

Other foods that should also be avoided include chocolate, onions, garlic, macadamias and any products that include the artificial sweetener xylitol.

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