March 17-23 marks the 51st anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW). Pet parents can use this special week of emphasis on poison control as an opportunity to assess the items in your home and garden environment that may be hazardous to your pets. Click here to read a previous article on NPPW.
Most parents and pet owners know that antifreeze can be lethal to companion animals and children. Ethylene glycol is the ingredient that gives antifreeze its sweet taste that is so enticing to animals. Small amounts of this substance ingested by your pets can cause acute kidney failure and can quickly result in death if not treated.
Every year more than 10,000 dogs and cats are accidentally poisoned by ingestion of automotive antifreeze. It is one of the many causes of poisoning of dogs and cats in the United States. It only takes a small taste of antifreeze to poison your pet. Cats are approximately four times as sensitive to the poison as dogs. Less than a teaspoon of antifreeze can poison a cat and three tablespoons can kill a medium size dog. Pet parents need to know how to help keep antifreeze away from animals, as well as detect the early symptoms of antifreeze poisoning.
Here are a few tips to protect your pets from the dangers of antifreeze:
- Keep your pet inside when flushing your radiator.
- Never drain your radiator into gutters or onto the ground. Take used antifreeze to a service station for proper disposal.
- Repair all radiator leaks, even if no antifreeze is dripping onto the ground. Cats can (and often will) crawl up into car engines to lick drops of antifreeze from leaky radiator caps. As all cat owners know, cats are naturally curious creatures and will explore anything new – such as drops of antifreeze on the floor of your garage.
- Store antifreeze in a leak proof container and immediately clean up any obvious spills. Hose off areas near your car where antifreeze may have spilled.
- Don't let your pet freely roam in your garage or outdoors. Walking through a puddle of antifreeze, followed by paw licking, can result in death.
- Buy antifreeze with the bitter-tasting and less toxic propylene glycol instead of the sweet-tasting ethylene glycol. Even though this type of antifreeze is still dangerous it is less enticing because of its bitter taste and does not cause kidney damage.
Ingestion of ethylene glycol is always a medical emergency. Successful treatment depends on quick diagnosis and treatment. Take your pet to the vet immediately if you suspect he or she has ingested antifreeze. Irreversible kidney damage can occur within hours of ingestion. Lethargy, depression, and staggering are just a few of the symptoms of ingestion, but some pets may show no symptoms at all.
Click here to read a January 29, 2013 Press Release from The Humane Society of the United States on antifreeze poisoning.