Antifreeze Dangers

Q

Can antifreeze kill my pet?

A

Sadly, yes. Antifreeze is a potent poison for all animals as well as humans. Ingestion of even small amounts can lead to a deadly result. The minimum lethal dose ingested by a medium sized dog is less than half of one cup. The minimum lethal dose for a cat is less than two teaspoons! 

Antifreeze is required for all automobile coolant systems to protect the engine from both heat and cold excess. Antifreeze comes in many colors from green, red, yellow, orange, and even pink. The three most common ingredients used in antifreeze are ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, and methanol. Ethylene glycol is the most common and the most dangerous.

Why would my pet be interested in antifreeze?

Ethylene glycol is a thick liquid that is colorless and odorless. It is described as having a sweet taste. Animals are not always selective in what they ingest. Many states have enacted laws requiring a bitter substance to be added to antifreeze to deter children and animals from accidental or purposeful ingestion. Ohio has yet to enact such a law.

How does ingestion of antifreeze harm my pet? 

Ethylene glycol is used in the most common antifreeze products. It is metabolized by the body into a dangerous toxin called oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is very damaging to the kidneys. The damage to the kidneys can be irreversible and fatal.

How do I know my pet has gotten into antifreeze?

Early symptoms are often subtle and non-specific. Early symptoms may show as nothing more than lethargy or a wobbly gait lasting a few hours. Later symptoms are more obvious and worrisome. They include depression, abdominal pain, lack of appetite, and vomiting. Unfortunately, these signs indicate dangerous kidney failure.

What should I do if my pet ingests antifreeze? 

Ingestion of any amount of antifreeze should be treated as an immediate emergency. Contact your veterinarian or pet emergency hospital. Early treatment is essential in avoiding life threatening poisoning. Prevention is always the best cure. Check your car regularly for leaks. Clean up all spills immediately. Consider using radiator fluids that contain propylene glycol, which is less toxic than ethylene glycol.

 Remember, it is our responsibility to keep our pets healthy and safe. 

Dr. Bob

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