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Protecting your pets against antifreeze poisoning

By Carol Pezzula

With the cold weather upon us, one of the most common problems for pets and their owners is antifreeze poisoning.

Antifreeze poisoning is one of the most common forms of poisoning in small animals. This is because it is so commonly found in households. It is estimated that 90,000 pets a year are poisoned by ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in antifreeze.

Ethylene glycol is a sweet-tasting chemical that is found in antifreeze. It is unfortunately appealing to animals and consumption of a very small amount can lead to rapid kidney failure and death within a very short period of time.

Ethylene glycol can also be found in other household products such as de-icing agents, windshield washer fluid, portable toilets and some heating components. Antifreeze poisoning is a medical emergency, and early treatment is crucial. 

The signs of antifreeze poisoning vary, depending on the amount of antifreeze the pet drank and length of time since ingestion. Initially, pets may stagger or walk like they are drunk. Other signs include: lethargy (tiredness), depression, nausea, salivation (drooling), vomiting (often the fluorescent green color of antifreeze), increased drinking and increased urination.

As time progresses, signs may include: rapid breathing, seizures, no urination and coma.

Signs of antifreeze poisoning can show 30 minutes after ingestion. It can be two or three days before signs of kidney failure are seen.

If your pet shows any of these signs, take them to a vet immediately. The sooner veterinary treatment is received, the better their chances of survival. If left untreated pets can suffer, and will die.

There are a number of steps you can take to prevent your pet from drinking antifreeze:

Do not allow your pet to roam the neighborhood freely.

Do not allow your pet access to the area when you are draining radiator fluid.

Clean up any spills immediately, no matter how small, and make sure pets cannot access the area until it is clean and safe.

Store antifreeze containers out of the reach of pets.

Check your car for antifreeze leaks frequently.

Use antifreeze containing propylene glycol, which is less toxic than ethylene glycol.

It is our responsibility as pet parents to keep our pets safe and healthy.

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