If grape juice is one of your family “staples” then doubtless you would know that one of the biggest brands in the US is “Welch”.
What you might not know is that the company is named after its founder Thomas Welch who can be credited with creating grape juice as we know it today.
Welch created his first batch of grape juice in 1869 because he wanted a non alcoholic drink that he could use at his local church.
Non alcoholic as it might be, is this a juice that you should be sharing with your dog?
But before I start looking in any detail at how suitable grape juice is for your dog, I want to whet your appetite with a few fun facts about grape juice!
What is grape juice?
Grape juice is the liquid that is left when grapes are crushed and pulped.
It is estimated that just over 1000 million dollars of the stuff is sold in America every year.
That is the equivalent of every adult drinking about 1 litre a year…
Welch’s, one of the biggest companies in the sector, get most of their grapes from the state of Washington.
Here they turn about 100 000 tonnes of grapes into about 20 million gallons of grape juice.
Well that’s all well and good but what does it mean for the relationship that your dog should have with grape juice?
How and why are grapes toxic to dogs?
I think that most dog owners know how deadly grapes can be if a dog ate them.
It isn’t very often that I can give a plain and simple answer to a question about whether your dog can eat certain foods and drink certain juices.
But with grape juice the answer is straightforward.
Don’t let your dog drink, sip or lick the stuff because it is so toxic that it might kill your dog.
Scientists don’t know why grapes, grape juice (or even raisins) are toxic to a dog.
They just know that they are.
And it can take as little as five grapes to kill an 18 lb (9 kg) dog.
An 18lb dog is on the small side- we are talking something like a Boston Terrier or a Dachshund here.
But even so, five grapes?!
Another strange thing about grape poisoning is that it doesn’t affect all dogs.
Some have died after eating five grapes and other dogs are no worse for wear after feasting on a whole bunch of grapes.
And it isn’t related to the size of the dog or any specific breed.
But, is grape juice as toxic?
Is grape juice toxic to dogs?
You might make a case for arguing that the effects of grapes and grape juice on dogs might be totally different.
After all, grape juice isn’t 100% juice- there are other preservatives and sweeteners mixed in.
And grape juice doesn’t contain any of the skin or the pips or seeds from the grape.
And we know that cherry pits are very dangerous for dogs (because they contain cyanide) but the flesh and the skin are fine.
So isn’t it the same for grapes?
Let me tackle all of these points together because they are all linked.
Firstly most of the best selling grape juices aren’t 100% grape juice, they do contain other ingredients.
These ingredients typically include water (filtered don’t you know) and ascorbic acid (which boosts the vitamin C total) and citric acid to add a bit of bite or tartness to the flavour.
Whilst we don’t know what the ratio in the juice is between grape juice and water, we do know that there is more juice than water because grape juice is listed first in the list.
The fact that the juice is diluted because of all of these added ingredients doesn’t mean that it makes grape juice less toxic than fresh grapes because we don’t know why grapes are so deadly to some dogs.
And because of that, we don’t know the number of grapes or the amount of grape juice it would take to poison a dog.
And the same logic can be used when it comes to the comparison with cherries.
Yes, cherries become much less toxic once the pip has been removed.
But since vets don’t know what makes grapes so dangerous to dogs, it cannot be argued that grape juice is dog safe because the skin and the seeds have been removed.
Because I’m not sure that grape juice doesn’t contain any seeds or skin.
After a bit of digging online, I can state for a fact that Welch’s grape juice does contain, uniquely, the pulped skin from grapes.
What varieties of grape juice are there?
Grape juice comes in quite a few varieties and flavours.
There are essentially two main varieties of grape juice- purple and white.
Purple juice is made from the concord variety of grape and the white juice is made from the Niagara grape variety.
Both grapes are solid American varieties.
Your basic, all American flavours, are essentially purple grape juice and white grape juice.
But on top of that you can have flavoured grape juices such as peach, apple and even cherry.
Most of these additional flavours are blended with the white grape juice varieties.
Now, the interesting thing about these juice flavours is that they contain juices from many more fruits.
So, just take a cherry flavoured white grape juice.
Naturally this contains grape and cherry juice.
But it also contains apple and pear juice as well- even though they don’t appear on the label as a flavour.
Another very popular blend of grape juice is when it has been blended with cranberries.
However, none of these varieties or flavours are safe for your dog to consume.
What are the symptoms of grape poisoning?
But suppose after all is said and done your dog has managed to slurp some grape juice from an unattended glass on the counter or from a careless spill by one of the kids that left a big grape puddle on the floor?
What are the danger signs- the dreaded symptoms of grape poisoning?
There is nothing in the common symptoms of grape poisoning that make them unique from the symptoms of many other major illnesses.
Vomiting is the single biggest indicator and this can be accompanied by a lack of energy and also diarrhea.
These symptoms should appear within 6-12 hours of the dog ingesting the grape juice.
Within 24 hours if left untreated the kidneys will begin to suffer irreversible damage.
The worst cases are that within 3 days of the incident a dog could be dead.
If there are symptoms, what next?
If you are unfortunate enough to spot these symptoms in your dog and you can think of no other reason for them to behave in such a way, you really have no alternative but to call up your vet and ask them for their advice.
Why are many fruit juices a bad ida for dogs?
At this point you might be breathing a huge sigh of relief that you looked for some advice online before letting your dog have a dribble of grape juice.
I mean it isn’t as if there are juices from several other fruits out there that are safe to let your dog drink.
This is true- apart from grape or cherry juice that is.
But here’s the thing.
Fruit juices aren’t as healthy as the colourful packaging and the sun drenched adverts would suggest.
And I’m talking here about people and about dogs.
“Calorie for calorie fruit juices are worse for you than fizzy drinks.”
That’s a bit scary isn’t it?
Fruit juices have a huge amount of sugar in them which can lead to obesity of course.
All fruit juices contain a huge amount of sugar.
A piece of fruit contains the same amount of sugar but when we eat fruit instead of drinking juice, the flesh of the fruit lowers the impact that the sugar has on our bodies.
As well as containing sugar, juices contain fruit acids which will attack far more than your dog’s waistline.
Fruit acids are incredibly damaging to teeth.
In a study mentioned in this article, frequent consumption of orange softened the enamel (which is the protective layering on all teeth) by over 80%.
Now you can argue that the study is irrelevant because it was about humans not dogs.
But dog’s teeth are made of the same things as human’s teeth.
And really and truly, dogs don’t need to drink fruit juices because they have a much better relationship with water than humans do.
Why is drinking water so important to dogs?
Dogs have a much better relationship with water?
Are you out of your tiny mind?
Hear me out.
Although there is some exaggeration in what I have just said, there is also a lot of truth.
As people, we would probably drink more water if it had a bit more taste to it.
There isn’t a lot happening to our taste buds when we have a glass of water, is there?
That is a good point, well made.
But water has far more flavour to dogs than it has to us because of the way that their taste buds are distributed on their tongues.
Dogs lap water up with their tongue and the front of their tongue (which meets the water) is packed to the rafters with taste buds when compared to a human tongue.
Just take a look at this fascinating but ultra slow video of a dog drinking.
Consequently, water to a dog is bursting with flavour.
And when they are thirsty it tastes even better.