Antifreeze poisoning

The winter is coming and many people are getting ready for it, including by winterizing their car with an Antifreeze solution. This week I would like to speak about Antifreeze and it’s potential hazards to our pets. Antifreeze is also known as Ethylene Glycol. It is a syrupy liquid that is usually brightly colored, neon green or pink. Antifreeze is odorless and it is sweet which makes it attractive for pets. Antifreeze is extremely dangerous to both humans and animals. Cats are about four times more sensitive to the poison as dogs.

The intoxication has two phases. About 30 minutes after consuming the antifreeze the pet will start show symptoms that will look like it has been drinking alcohol, such as: Staggering, confusion and disorientation, excessive thirst and urination, vomiting and listlessness. These symptoms last about 6 hours and then it will look like the pet is recovering and the symptoms are subsiding. Antifreeze affects mainly the kidneys but also the liver because these are the organs responsible for metabolizing the poison. The phase two of the intoxications is a result of the permanent failure of the kidneys and liver and then the pet will show inability to produce urine and terminal neurological symptoms such as seizures, coma and eventually death. This usually happens 12-24 hours after ingestion in cats, and 36-72 hours post ingestion in dogs.
If you suspect that your pet might have ingested ethylene glycol seek veterinary attention immediately. I can’t stress enough how important it is to treat the pet early, before permanent damage will occur. This is not a ”wait and see” condition. Unfortunately waiting in this case could cost you your pet’s life.
When you will take your pet to the Vet, the vet will perform blood and urine tests to detect the typical changes caused by antifreeze intoxication. The vet will induce vomiting, perform stomach pumping and probably feed the pet with active charcoal to try to decrease further absorption of the poison. The vet will also establish intravenous fluids to increase urine production and excrete as much ethylene glycol as possible.
The treatment of choice is using the poison antidote. Dogs and cats can only be cured when the poisoning is detected before extensive kidney damage has occurred, hence it so important to rush the pet into the vet’s office.
Prevention is the key. Keep your antifreeze on a high shelf in a place not accessible to your pet. Routine vehicle maintenance, and keep an eye out for evidence of leaks (greenish pools underneath your car), In case of spilling that might happen when your refill your vehicle’s reservoir immediately clean up the spills
Switching to a propylene-glycol-based antifreeze, a safer, less toxic, and not sweet chemical is a good alternative to ethylene glycol. This is one step that many pet owners take to protect their pets from accidental antifreeze poisoning.
I hope this winter will be nice, warm and safe for all of the pets and pet’s lovers out there.