As we get into the cooler months remember: Antifreeze Poisoning.
Every year thousands of pets are poisoned accidentally with automotive antifreeze. Ethylene glycol, the main ingredient making up 95% of antifreeze, is toxic to many mammals, including people. Ethylene glycol tastes sweet, and many animals actively seek it out. Most cases of toxicity occur when antifreeze is left where pets can get to it. It only takes a very small sip of antifreeze to poison your pet. Cats are approximately FOUR times as sensitive to the poison as dogs.
Ethylene glycol has an immediate and long-term affect on the body. Once it is consumed it is rapidly metabolized. Within thirty minutes of drinking, your pet will become ataxic (loss of coordination and muscle movement) and will appear intoxicated. This phase continues for up to six hours. Eventually this tipsy behavior subsides and it appears that the problem is over. It is a common idea for owners to wait a problem out, but this can prove fatal because the ethylene glycol then enters the pet’s liver and kidneys where it turns into toxic products that acidify the blood and destroy cells in the kidneys. When the kidneys are damaged, they lose their ability to cleanse the body of waste.
End results of antifreeze poisoning include loss of nervous system functions within a few days. Symptoms are dependent on how long it has been since ingestion, as well as the amount consumed. Early on, symptoms mirror intoxication. Dogs and cats may vomit because ethylene glycol can have very irritating effects on the stomach. They drink and urinate excessively and may be depressed and wobbly. After a day in cats and a few days in dogs, they may become depressed, weak and dehydrated. They may develop diarrhea, mouth ulcers, rapid breathing and seizures. Their kidneys are often painful and swollen.
When pets are presented soon after ingestion, the prognosis is fairly positive. Diagnosis is much more difficult after time. By the time ethylene glycol has attacked the kidneys it is too late for a cure. At this time the animal is very sick from uremia (kidney failure) and acidosis (acidic blood). The amount of ethylene glycol the animal consumed is very important in determining the success of treatment. Pets do not respond favorably to any treatment when they have ingested too much. The goal of treating antifreeze toxicity is to decrease absorption in the stomach and intestines as well as increasing excretion in the kidneys.
The first steps of treatment include inducing vomiting, and administering activated charcoal to absorb toxins. Large amounts of IV fluids are also indicated to increase urine production and in turn excrete toxins. Ordinary drinking alcohol is often used intravenously to counteract the effects of antifreeze poisoning. Treatment for ethylene glycol toxicity is very scary and is a pricey gamble. Timing is imperative. It is best to take preventative measures to keep your pets from ingesting any antifreeze.
When changing coolant in your vehicle, try to keep the fluid from spilling. If you do spill, wash the area immediately. If you have a coolant leak, do your best to keep the pavement where the fluid is leaking clean until your vehicle can be fixed. It is recommended to keep cats indoors as best you can, and supervise your furry friends while they are exercising their freedom outdoors.