Let’s start by making a New Year’s Resolution that your pets are not going to die from antifreeze poisoning! Not very cheery, we know, but important.
Antifreeze poisoning typically happens when antifreeze drips from a car’s radiator, where it is licked off the ground by a pet. The toxin that makes antifreeze lethal is ethylene glycol and it has a sweet taste. It does not take much ethylene glycol to cause fatal damage. Less than three ounces of antifreeze, which is less than half a cup, is enough to poison a medium-sized dog. And you know how dogs like to gulp things down, especially if they are sweet.
Antifreeze poisoning affects the brain, liver, and kidneys. Some common signs of poisoning in dogs and cats include: apparent drunken behavior, delirium, wobbly, uncoordinated movement, nausea/vomiting, excessive urination, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, depression, weakness, seizures/convulsions/ tremors, and fainting.
If you know your pet has been exposed to antifreeze or if you see any of these otherwise unexplained symptoms, obviously call your vet right away. Be prepared to tell her as much as you know about what may have happened. Why you think it may be antifreeze, how much may have been consumed, when it happened.
Dogs that have consumed antifreeze in very small quantity may survive, but may still develop kidney failure within days. Unfortunately, death due to kidney damage is common among animals that have been poisoned by antifreeze.
The good news is that antifreeze poisoning can be easily avoided by following a few simple precautions and that’s where you come in:
1. Keep antifreeze containers tightly closed and stored out of the reach of pets.
2. Be careful not to spill antifreeze, and if it is spilled, make sure that it is immediately and thoroughly cleaned up.
3. Dispose of used antifreeze containers properly.
4. Check the radiator of your car regularly, and repair leaks immediately.
5. Do not allow your dog to wander unattended where there is access to antifreeze (e.g., roads, gutters, garages, and driveways).
Above all, use pet-safe antifreeze. This contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol and the Food and Drug Administration has determined that it is safe to use. Look for antifreeze with this ingredient instead. It might be a little more expensive, but it will cost a lot less than veterinary bills for tests and treatments that may not even work.