Every year more than ten thousand dogs and cats are accidentally poisoned with automotive antifreeze. This is the most common cause of poisoning of dogs and cats in the U.S. The toxic ingredient in antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is also it’s major component. It makes up 95 per cent of the product, therefore, it only takes a small amount of antifreeze to poison a dog or cat. One or two teaspoons full of antifreeze will poison a cat and three tablespoons is enough to kill a medium size dog. Ethylene glycol is sweet and quite tasty to dogs and cats and they will actively seek it out.
Ethylene glycol is quickly absorbed and metabolized once it has been consumed. Within thirty minutes of ingestion, your pet will become drunk in appearance. This phase continues for up to six hours. Eventually this drunken behavior subsides and it appears that the problem is over. However, it is not! The ethylene glycol then enters the animal’s liver and kidneys where it is oxidized into toxic products that acidify the blood and destroy renal tubular cells in the animal’s kidneys.
The transformation of antifreeze leads to glyoxcylic acid, oxalate and formic acid. The glycolic acid and oxalate are the most responsible for kidney damage and the resulting uremia. These compounds are also responsible for damaging the animal’s central nervous system. There is no treatment that will reverse this damage! It can be fatal within a few days.
Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning
* Excessive Drinking and Urination
The first stage of antifreeze poisoning begins about thirty minutes after ingestion. Your pet may appear to be drunk. He may stagger, vomit and appear confused and disoriented.
This stage will begin after your pet has gone through what appears to be a recovery period. He will appear to be getting better, but soon afterwards, (possibly 1 or 2 days) the toxins will cause permanent damage to his liver and kidneys as these organs try to metabolize the poison.
Immediate veterinary assistance is the only thing that will save your pet. Inducing vomiting and giving your pet activated charcoal will not cure him, although it will lessen the poison that is in his system. You should save any vomited material and take it with you to the vet’s.
Without question, the safest solution to antifreeze poisoning is to prevent your pet’s having access to antifreeze. Store antifreeze jugs on a high shelf in your garage where it can’t get knocked over. Immediately clean up any spills that occur when you refill your vehicle’s reservoir. Remember, it only takes a very small amount of antifreeze to kill a dog or cat!
One preventive step that many pet owners take, is to switch to a propylene-glycol-based antifreeze, which is a safer and less toxic alternative to ethylene glycol. Being aware of evidence of leaks, (greenish pools underneath your vehicle), and immediately cleaning up any and all spills, will decrease your pet’s chances of being poisoned with antifreeze. Always keep your pet under your supervision and leashed. Dogs and cats that are allowed to run free in the neighborhood are more susceptible to antifreeze and other types of poisoning.