Antifreeze—Poison to Pets

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Spring is the time of year when many vehicle owners flush their radiators and replace the antifreeze ready for the hot summer months ahead. Antifreeze, if ingested, is deadly to pets and responsible for an estimated 10,000 accidental poisonings in animals every year. Antifreeze is made up of 95 percent ethylene glycol, a highly toxic poison deadly to children and pets. Attracted by the sweet taste of antifreeze, it takes approximately two teaspoons to cause death in an average sized cat and about two tablespoons to prove fatal in a dog. 14

Animals left free to roam the neighborhood are especially at risk for antifreeze poisoning such as stray dogs or animals that have escaped their chains or yards without their owner’s knowledge. Signs of antifreeze poisoning include staggering; disorientation; or lethargy, beginning within 30 minutes of ingestion. This “drunken” stage may last a few hours, after which the animal may appear to perk up and act normally. When the animal’s liver starts to metabolize the ethylene glycol, the toxin causes liver damage. Within 12 -36 hours of those first licks of antifreeze the animal’s liver shuts down. Coma follows and death.

Rushing your pet to the veterinarian may be the only way to save him. Home remedies such as charcoal will not work in this case and with every precious minute that ticks by, your pet’s chances of survival narrow.
Leaking radiator hoses and overheated cars spew antifreeze onto the ground, which may attract thirsty dogs to lick the spillages in order to quench their thirst. After topping up the radiator’s reservoir garage floors should be wiped clean of any antifreeze drips that may be accidentally ingested by pets. The soiled cloth should be discarded in a trash can with a tight-fitting lid. Antifreeze jugs should be placed up high or locked in a cupboard to prevent accidental access by pets or children. Spillages should be hosed with plenty of water to dilute and disperse the poison.

Alternative less toxic antifreeze is available that is propylene-glycol-based and although not nontoxic, is not as lethal as its counterpart, ethylene glycol. Take the necessary steps to ensure your pet’s safety around deadly toxins such as antifreeze and always ensure he has access to plenty of fresh drinking water.


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