Antifreeze can be anti-pet
Antifreeze may be good for your car in frigid winter temperatures, but it’s poisonous for your pet.
The opaque, florescent green liquid that prevents a car’s engine-cooling system from freezing may not look palatable to the average human, but its sweet flavor can lure dogs and cats to their death.
Antifreeze usually contains ethylene glycol, which causes lethal kidney failure. While not lethal when ingested, ethylene glycol becomes toxic as enzymes in the liver break it down.
Even in small doses, antifreeze can be toxic to animals that ingest it.
“I’ve seen a couple dogs and a cat die from it,” said Frisco Animal Hospital veterinary technician Jen Marshall. “It takes such a tiny amount- just a half a teaspoon. It can be pretty scary.
Animals generally come into contact with antifreeze because of spills or by finding and opening antifreeze containers. Cats are more susceptible because they will lick it off of their paws, and much smaller doses can be fatal.
“Antifreeze is the one of the most common poisonings we see in pets, and any contact with the substance can be fatal,” said Dr. Tim Hackett, chief of critical care at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University. “That is why it is so important for pet owners to prevent antifreeze poisoning in their own homes.”
It’s also important for owners to know the signs of antifreeze poisoning, in case their animals do get into it. A pet may have ingested antifreeze if it has a fluorescent green color on its tongue, snout or paws.
“If they get into enough of it, within a few hours, they are inebriated; they’re drunk just like a person, then they get over it,” said Dr. Vince Tharp, a veterinarian at Alpine Veterinary Practice in Dillon. “On the third day, they vomit, and, on the fourth day, they die.”
If owners do suspect antifreeze poisoning, hasty treatment is essential.
“It’s definitely a terrible thing to happen if it’s not caught immediately,” Marshall said.
If a pet may have ingested antifreeze, do not hesitate to take it to an emergency clinic for a blood test. If the test is positive, it typically takes a couple of days of drug and fluid treatment to get the pet’s health back on track.
Treatment aims to prevent the metabolic conversion into the toxic compound, and, if successful, most of the ethylene glycol is excreted unchanged.
Within 12 to 24 hours of ingestion, an animal can receive treatment that can effectively reverse most damage.
“It’s best to know right when they drink it,” Tharp said. “If they start acting inebriated, we can treat at that point, but it starts to get tougher. The best chance is up to 24 hours; some, you can save within 48 hours, but, after that, you’re pretty much out of luck.”
Some vets suggest switching to nontoxic antifreeze which does not contain ethylene glycol, but Hackett said that the best ways to keep pets safe are to clean up all spills and check regularly for leaks under cars.
If changing antifreeze at home, keep it out of reach, discard old antifreeze properly and do not dump it along gutters or in places where a wandering animal might find it.
“Be careful with your antifreeze and know where your animals are going and what they’re getting into,” Tharp said.