Your pet and the dangers of antifreeze
Some of the coldest months of the year are rapidly approaching and with that comes new challenges for pet owners when it comes to their pet’s safety. While there may be a list of new things to consider, the one thing that needs to be a top priority is antifreeze as the dangers it poses for your pet can be fatal.
Antifreeze is a substance that many of us have in our garages or homes. It is a liquid substance that is used in car engines to protect against extreme temperatures and is also sometimes used in hydraulic brake fluid. If you or your neighbors have vehicles, chances are you will all be topping off your vehicle’s antifreeze levels in preparation for the winter. Unfortunately, leaks and spills of this substance can be deadly for our pets since antifreeze is severely toxic if consumed.
The main ingredient in antifreeze is ethylene glycol (EG), with some types of antifreeze reported to contain as much as 95% EG. This clear, odorless, water-soluble substance is reported to have a sweet odor and taste – something which makes it particularly tempting to pets who are often not all that discerning about what they will ingest.
The stages of antifreeze poisoning
There are three distinct stages of poisoning that occur when an animal has consumed ethylene glycol. These are as follows:
Stage One. This stage looks similar to alcohol poisoning with symptoms including drooling, vomiting, loss of coordination, extreme thirst and/or urination and seizures. This stage can start anywhere between 30 minutes and 12 hours after the ingestion of the antifreeze.
Stage Two. Stage two usually occurs between 12 and 24 hours after the ingestion of the antifreeze. It may seem as though your pet is getting better, but internally, this is far from the case.
Stage Three. Stage three usually occurs 12 to 24 hours after ingestion in cats, and between 36 and 72 hours after antifreeze ingestion in dogs. By this point, your pet will be entering acute kidney failure as their body is unable to process the ethylene glycol. Loss of appetite, vomiting, drooling, lethargy, seizures, and unconsciousness can occur.
The urgency of treatment for antifreeze poisoning
There is an antidote for antifreeze poisoning, but time is of the essence. The antidote, known as fomepizole, must be administered as soon as possible in order to have a chance at saving your pet’s life.
In cats, this antidote must be given within 3 hours of ingestion.
In dogs, this antidote must be given within 12 hours of ingestion.
If fomepizole is administered any later than these times, your pet’s survival is extremely unlikely.
How to prevent antifreeze poisoning in your pet
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways in which you can safeguard your pet against antifreeze poisoning. These include the following:
- Only using antifreeze that contains propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Propylene glycol is still toxic to pets and should be kept away from them, but the toxicity levels are lower than that for EG.
- Check carefully for any antifreeze spills when you top up your vehicle, or when it has been standing for some time, and clear up any leaks immediately.
- Keep any antifreeze bottles securely closed and out of the reach of the paws of your pet.
- Monitor what your pet is doing as much as possible when out and about, just in case they should come across a spillage of antifreeze.
- Make your neighbors aware of the dangers of antifreeze poisoning and ask them to also be vigilant in cleaning up spills.
If you are concerned that your pet may have ingested antifreeze, don’t delay in seeking help immediately as their life could depend on it. Contact your emergency veterinarian immediately, or the pet poison helpline, for advice and support.