As the weather still remains cold, we will be sure to go through a lot of antifreeze in the car. Just make sure that you handle it with care, store it safely away from the reach of your beloved pets and dispose of it properly because antifreeze is highly poisonous to both cats and dogs. Due to its sweet aroma and sweet taste, pets often ingest it accidentally.
Poisonous to: Cats, Dogs
Level of toxicity: Severe to fatal
Common signs to watch for:
- Excessive thirst or urination
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Acute kidney failure
Antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol (EG), is extremely dangerous to dogs and cats. Sources of ethylene glycol include automotive antifreeze (radiator coolant, which typically contains 95% ethylene glycol), windshield deicing agents, motor oils, hydraulic brake fluid, developing solutions for photography, paints, solvents, etc. As little as a tablespoon can result in severe acute kidney failure in dogs, while as little as 1 teaspoon can be fatal to cats. When dogs or cats are exposed to ethylene glycol, immediate treatment is necessary. Three stages of poisoning can be seen with ethylene glycol:
Stage 1: This occurs within 30 minutes to 12 hours, and looks similar to alcohol poisoning. Signs of walking drunk, drooling, vomiting, seizuring, and excessive thirst and urination may be seen.
Stage 2: This occurs within 12-24 hours post-exposure, and clinical signs seen to “resolve” when in fact more severe internal injury is still occurring.
Stage 3: In cats, this stage occurs 12-24 hours after ethylene glycol exposure. In dogs, this stage occurs 36-72 hours post-ingestion. During this stage, severe acute kidney failure is occuring. Signs of inappetance, lethargy, drooling, halitosis (secondary to kidney failure), coma, depression, vomiting, and seizures may be seen.
Treatment for ethylene glycol poisoning includes the antidote fompeizole (also known as 4-MP) or ethanol. The antidote, fomepizole (also known as 4-MP), is expensive but life-saving when administered to dogs within the first 8-12 hours of ingestion. In cats, the antidote must be administered within 3 hours of ingestion to be effective; after this time period, ethylene glycol poisoning is almost 100% fatal without hemodialysis. Aggressive therapy is necessary to survive.
How to keep your pets safe:
- Switch to a brand of antifreeze that contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.
- Keep antifreeze sealed and away from animals; clean up spills completely, and fix any leaks immediately.
- Don’t allow your pet to wander unattended near driveways, roads, garages, or other places where she could come into contact with antifreeze.
- Keep other products that contain ethylene glycol—like paint, cosmetics and novelty snow globes—out of the reach of animals, as well as any product of which you are not certain of the ingredients.
- Monitor your pet for strange behavior. If you think she may have ingested antifreeze, take her to a veterinarian immediately.
Information courtesy of the Pet Poison Helpline and The Humane Society of the United States.