Antifreeze Toxicity

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Antifreeze Toxicity

The ingestion of Antifreeze by pets is extremely toxic. Because antifreeze has a sweet taste, it is also one of the most common poisonings of dogs, cats, wildlife and even birds. Often animals are poisoned around their own home due to the improper storage or disposal of antifreeze. As little as a teaspoon can be fatal for pets.

It is estimated that over 78% of animals with antifreeze toxicity die. The toxic component of antifreeze is ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol has one of the highest fatality rates of all poisons. If you believe your pet has ingested antifreeze you should call your veterinarian immediately. It may be too late if you wait for symptoms to occur.

Often pets ingest antifreeze unnoticed. Therefore it is prudent to mentions the signs of ethylene glycol toxicity. There are three stages of poisoning. The first two stages can pass unnoticed.

Stage 1 – (30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion)
Pet may appear drunk; staggering, increased thirst, increased urination and/or vomiting. The body temperature may drop and the pet can appear depressed. It is also possible that seizures, coma and/or death can occur during this stage, depending on the amount of antifreeze ingested.
Stage 2 – (12 to 24 hours after ingestion)
The respiration rate of the pet increases and heart rate may increase or decrease. Other signs may go away giving a false sign of recovery.
Stage 3 – (24 to 72 hours hours after ingestion for dogs and 12 to 24 hours in cats)
Kidney failure occurs in this stage. More vomiting and diarrhea can occur along with severe depression and seizures. Eye lesions and/or oral lesions can also develop. Coma and death may follow within a day.

Treatment requires immediate diagnosis and early intervention. Your pet will be hospitilized for several days and given IV fluids among other medications.

The best way to prevent this from occuring is to limit your pets and other peoples pets exposure to your antifreeze. Always clean up antifreeze spills immediately. Check your car for leaks. Store your antifreeze containers in areas that are inaccessible to pets. Never allow your pets near you when you are draining antifreeze from your car. Carefully dispose of any antifreeze products. There are less toxic forms of antifreeze that you can use instead of conventional ethylene glycol containing products. These products contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. Preston Low Tox® and Sierra® are two types available in automobile shops. Although, if your pet ingests any type of antifreeze you need to contact your veterinarian immediately.