Help! My Dog Ate Grape Jelly

Photo by Olia Gozha on Unsplash

Is your dog a thief?

A sneaky raider of any item that has been left on a kitchen work surface?

Years ago, one of my dogs used to put her front paws onto the kitchen counter and lick from the sugar bowl!

Fortunately, it never seemed to do her much harm and it taught us to completely clear any work surface of any food item!

But in today’s post, I want to look at grape jelly.

If your dog accidentally eats any, is it toxic and what should you do?

Let’s take a quick look. 

What is grape jelly?

Grape jelly is a sweet preserve or “jam” that is made from boiling, mashing and then straining grapes before adding lots of sugar to the mix.

Most people would have grape jelly spread over toast.

In the U.S. (where it is most widely consumed) it is the second most popular preserve behind

strawberries. 

And since 2011, roughly 120 million Americans eat it every year. 

What are the main ingredients?

Two big brands in the US- Welch’s and Smucker’s.

Their list of ingredients are virtually identical.

Their jelly contains 6 ingredients:

concord grapes, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit pectin, citric acid, sodium citrate.

All in all, these jellies are at least 55% sugar, which is obviously something that your dog shouldn’t have too much of.

But what we don’t know is the amount of grapes that make up every jar of jelly. 

So let’s take a quick look at the individual ingredients and see if there are any that are especially bad for dogs.

Are grapes poisonous to dogs?

Wow! It is not often that I come across an answer as unequivocal as this.

Grapes or raisins are very toxic to dogs and can lead to kidney failure and death.

There is still much that is unknown about why grapes are so poisonous. 

Scientists have yet to find the specific substance that is so toxic.

And nor do they know how the number of grapes that it takes to kill.

And the symptoms are worryingly vague as well.

These include diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.

If your dog eats a few grapes then you should be on the phone to your vet as quickly as possible. 

Can dogs eat corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup?

Both high fructose corn syrup and standard corn syrup are in grape jelly.

Although both are made with corn starch, standard corn syrup is glucose and high fructose corn syrup contains fructose.

Glucose and fructose are both forms of sugar

Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream, whereas fructose is processed by the liver. 

Neither of these sugars are toxic to dogs but depending on how much grape jelly your dog ate will decide if there are any nasty side effects such diarrhea. 

Can dogs eat pectin?

Pectin is a naturally occurring starch which is found in the skin of fruits and vegetables

It is a natural “thickener” which gives each vegetable and fruit their unique shape.

In jams and jellies, it is the ingredient that makes them semi solid. 

The good news is that pectin isn’t toxic to dogs.

In fact, it is sometimes used to treat dogs and other animals for diarrhea.

Which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given what we have learned about its thickening properties. 

Can dogs eat citric acid?

As well as grape jelly, citrus fruits contain citric acid.

But the small amounts of citric acid that are found in grape jelly will not do your dog any harm beyond a bad stomach upset

Can dogs eat sodium citrate?

Sodium citrate is a salt related to citric acid and it isn’t known to be toxic to dogs.

Are there any safe alternatives to grape jelly?

So at this point, you might be thinking about safer alternatives to grape jelly?

And most other fruit jellies or jams will be OK because fruits are generally toxic to dogs.

Cherry pits and leaves are highly toxic for dogs so you might want to give cherry jelly a miss.

The trouble with any jelly is that regardless of any fruit content, they are loaded with sugar.

Another option could be peanut butter but you need to make sure that is doesn’t contain any xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs.

What about honey? Well honey is safe in small quantities for dogs and although it is a natural product it is packed full of sugar…

But honey is a better “accidental snack” for your dog than any jelly.

How to stop a dog eating grape jelly?

The safest way of stopping your dog from eating grape jelly is to stop feeding them little bits every now and then.

Or to make sure that you don’t leave it out on a work surface.

Which is easier said then done- because however organised and tidy we try to be, there will always be the odd occasion when we leave the kitchen in a state of chaos!

Closing Thoughts

After looking at all the active ingredients in grape jelly, it becomes obvious that the main cause for concern in relation to your dog are the grapes, which are highly toxic. 

Because they are so toxic, it is best not to wait around whilst you watch your dog for signs of any side effects.

By the time that they might be showing side effects, their kidneys might be shutting down. 

And so, you should either phone your vet as soon as possible or phone the pet poison helpline (which will cost you $59.)