Every year, by some estimates, about 10,000 dogs and cats are
victims of accidental poisoning by automobile antifreeze. A pet
does not have to drink a lot of antifreeze to be poisoned. Most
brands of commercial antifreeze consist of 95 percent ethylene
glycol, an extremely toxic chemical. Even a few licks of this
sweet-tasting liquid can be fatal to a cat or dog. (Ethylene-
glycol-based antifreeze is also extremely hazardous to children.
A few ounces are lethal.) For a medium sized dog, ingestion of
about 2 ounces (3-4 tablespoons ) is toxic. For cats, as little
as 1/4 of an ounce (1-2 teaspoons) can be lethal. Antifreeze poisoning
commonly occurs in spring and fall when car owners replace the
old antifreeze with fresh antifreeze in their car radiators. However,
poisoning can happen anytime, particularly when a car boils over
or when a hose leaks, releasing the antifreeze. As mentioned above,
this poisoning happens often to animals who are allowed to roam
freely in their neighborhoods, but another high risk group are
those dogs who are confined in garages and who may not always
be provided with adequate fresh drinking water. These dogs may
gain access to improperly or inadequately stored antifreeze or
lick spilled or leaked antifreeze off the garage floor. If it
is necessary to confine your pet(s) to your garage, make sure
antifreeze containers are well secured and your animal has plenty
of fresh water.
source of antifreeze are the decorative "snow globes"
glassware. The liquid in the these displays contain 2% antifreeze
and are very toxic.. I recently received of call of a young cat
poisoned when ingesting some of the liquid from a shattered "snow
cats and dog are attracted to the smell and taste of ethylene
glycol. Therefore, when you or a member of your household changes
antifreeze in the driveway, be sure to collect all of the waste
coolant and properly dispose of it. And never leave a bucket of
ethylene-glycol coolant unattended - even for a moment. Also remember
that your car can leak coolant at any time. If you see a puddle
of greenish-colored liquid in your driveway, flush the area with
plenty of water and dont delay locating and fixing the leak.
Another method of quick clean-up is to spread cat litter on the
spill, clean up with rags (which are bagged immediately) and then
rinse. Antifreeze will biodegrade in the environment, but it takes
weeks or months to do so, so removing the spill is absolutely
poisoning occurs in two stages: In the first stage, the ethylene
glycol in the antifreeze causes a drunken appearance in the animal
within about 30 minutes which may continue for several hours.
After passing through stage 1, the animal appears to recover.
Stage 2 begins when the dogs liver begins metabolizing the
ethylene glycol, changing it into more toxic substances. Within
12 to 36 hours of ingestion, these metabolites have reached such
a level that the dogs kidneys stop functioning, and the
animal slips into a coma.
the dog to a veterinarian is critical within the first 9-12 hours
following ingestion. After that length of time, the liver will
have already begun metabolizing the ethylene glycol into substances
that cause kidney failure and ultimately death. I have been asked
the question by several people-What should be done immediately
care for my pet. Should I induce vomiting or give activated charcoal
to my pet? These are very short term fixes and not a cure. The
faster your pet is treated by a veterinarian the better the chances
of recovery. Again, this poison is extremely toxic.
source of help is the National Poison Control Center, 800-548-2423.
This call will cost $30.
of antifreeze poisoning include a drunken appearance including
staggering, lack of coordination, and apparent disorientation
and vomiting. The animal may appear listless and depressed. Because
early signs of antifreeze poisoning often mimic signs of other
illness, neither you or your veterinarian may suspect antifreeze
poisoning until it is too late. Fortunately, in house lab tests
performed by your veterinarian by assist in the diagnosis of antifreeze
our practice we had a tragic incident involving two pets. One
dog ingested antifreeze and then vomited the product. The other
dog then licked up the vomit and also developed the toxicity.
By the time the owner recognized the seriousness of the situation,
it was too late and both pets died. We also had a situation involving
a household of three cats. The same situation occurred. But, fortunately,
the owner recognized the problem and we were able to save two
of the three pets. As, you can see, this is truly a horrible and
One step owners can take to prevent a potential tragedy from befalling
their pets is to use a less-toxic propylene-glycol-based antifreeze
in the car. Propylene glycol, on the other hand - although not
entirely nontoxic - is considerably less toxic than ethylene glycol.
These products do provide an added margin of safety in the event
of accidental ingestion. However, it still can cause death if
a large amount is ingested. In addition, the metals in your cooling
system that corrode or dissolve into your antifreeze can also
be harmful. For this reason, motorists should always exercise
caution when using any type of antifreeze product.
If your standard practice is to take your car to a mechanic for
its winter preparations, be sure to ask specifically for a propylene-glycol-based
antifreeze. (But be prepared to pay a little more.)
are several nationally available propylene- glycol antifreezes
on the market, including:
(Safe Brands Corp., 1-800-289-7234)
(Sta-Clean Products, 1-800-825-3464
LowTox® Antifreeze/Coolant-available at most automotive stores
number of regional companies also offer propylene-glycol antifreeze
in regional markets or in bulk quantities.