Preventing Pet Antifreeze Poisoning

How to treat and prevent the widespread but little-known problem of pets and antifreeze poisoning.

| September/October 1986

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    You may not know it, but ethylene glycol — the alcohol-like compound found in antifreeze and deicers — is one of the most common substances involved in accidental animal poisonings. And it's lethal.
    ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 101-030-i1

Pets find antifreeze tasty — and lethal. How to treat and prevent a widespread but little-known problem of pet antifreeze poisoning. 

Preventing Pet Antifreeze Poisoning

The nights are getting chilly, reminding you to slip on your jacket and head out to change the antifreeze in your car. Beauregard, your faithful mutt, meets up with you out back and lopes along with you to the garage. Then, as you're flushing out your radiator, you look around to see ol' Beau lapping away at a puddle of antifreeze on the garage floor. What do you do?

"Grab your dog and run to the vet," says Dr. Jill Frucci, D.V.M., editor of The Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. "There are times when people should hit the panic button and not screw around at home. This is one of them."

You may not know it, but ethylene glycol — the alcohol-like compound found in antifreeze and deicers — is one of the most common substances involved in accidental animal poisonings. And it's lethal. Once it's ingested, enzymes called alcohol dehydrogenates break down the ethylene glycol to form toxic substances that damage the kidneys. The fact that these toxins may lead to renal failure in as little as 48 hours for dogs — or 24 hours for cats — is reason enough to head for the vet immediately if you even suspect that your pet has been downing a few shots of deicer.



"People will try to treat their animal for a day or two at home with antifreeze poisoning," says Dr. Frucci. "By the time they bring it to me, there's so much damage to the system — to the blood system and kidneys — that I wind up treating an animal that's comatose."

"It would be a horrible way to die," says Dr. Val Beasley, associate director of the National Animal Poison Control Center. "The animal will be vomiting, there will be kidney pains, it'll get sores in its mouth . . . if you don't treat a poisoned pet quickly, it can get critically ill and then suffer for days before it dies."






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