About Antifreeze Poisoning
For many household pets, winter weather brings a deadly threat that comes in
a plastic bottle. It is ethylene glycol, a chemical commonly used in
antifreeze. Antifreeze is said to be sweet and animals like to eat or drink it. But
ingestion of antifreeze can often be fatal if it's not immediately treated.
Ethylene glycol is metabolized by the liver and travels in the bloodstream
to the kidneys, where it forms insoluble calcium oxalate crystals inside the
renal tubules.Once metabolism of the ethylene glycol has reached a certain
point, there is no way to stop it." Because these crystals are insoluble,
there is no way to remove them from the body. They cause permanent damage to
the kidney tissue, which can ultimately lead to kidney failure.
An animal that has ingested ethylene glycol must receive immediate medical
attention. Those caught in the act of drinking the antifreeze have the best
chance of survival because medical attention can be administered
Initial signs of antifreeze poisoning are depression and lethargy. Animals
may seem groggy or drunk. The final stages of poisoning are characterized by
vomiting, oral and gastric ulcers, and renal failure, followed by death. The
initial signs can last from 1 to 6 hours and death may occur between 3 to 4
Most antifreeze products that contain ethylene glycol have a fluorescent dye
added so they glow under a UV light. If antifreeze poisoning is suspected, a
quick and inexpensive way to determine if antifreeze was ingested is to have
your veterinarian shine the light on the muzzle, paws, and under the tail of
the animal. If antifreeze residue is present, the hair will glow. Avoid
shining the light into the eyes of the animal.
Treatment for ethylene glycol poisoning can be expensive and can require
extended hospitalization. In addition, treatment is not always successful if
the product has been metabolized. For this reason, prevention is essential.
Regardless of what kind of antifreeze you use, it is important to keep pets
out of it. Watch for leaks in your car and keep pets away from the area
where antifreeze is stored. If you drain your antifreeze, do not leave it in
an open container because animals will be attracted to it. Dispose of this
waste properly and keep empty and full antifreeze containers away from dogs,
who may be tempted to chew on them. Even people who do not have pets should
follow these rules to avoid accidentally poisoning wild animals and pets
belonging to other people.
There are newer brands of antifreeze on the market that use propylene glycol
instead of ethylene glycol. Propylene glycol is commonly found in such
products as lotions, creams, and toothpaste and is not as toxic as ethylene
glycol. If at all possible, it is best to choose an antifreeze that does not
contain ethylene glycol.