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Anti-Freeze Toxicity

on November 20, 2012
Posted in Cats

With colder weather approaching, many people are getting their cars, cottages, and mobile homes ready for winter. This often involves using antifreeze (ethylene glycol) to winterize pipes and toilets and the car radiator.

Antifreeze is the most common poisoning found in pets. Most pets get exposed to antifreeze from leaking car radiators. This substance is lethal and it only takes a small amount to poison your pet. The substance is sweet and less than 3 ounces is enough to poison a medium size dog. For a cat that means even a few licks can be lethal.

Ethylene glycol targets the kidneys and causes acute kidney failure. Some of the symptoms are:

Drunken behavior
Wobbly, uncoordinated movement
Excessive urination
Rapid heart beat
Seizures/Convulsions/Shaking tremors

Unfortunately these signs can be indicative of many other things, so a thorough examination by your veterinarian including blood and urine testing are advised. A Woods Lamp may be used to see if the pet’s urine fluoresces under the black light. If the urine does fluoresce, it is a positive test for antifreeze. Commercial test kits are available to diagnosis the toxin but they are frequently not available.

Treatment for antifreeze toxicity is supportive. Although there is a specific antidote called fomepizole, it is not recommended in cats and is quite expensive. It is also not readily available. Your veterinarian will place your pet on fluids and give medications to stop the symptoms until the body deals with this toxin.

The best way to treat this toxicity is to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Here are some ways to prevent antifreeze toxicity:

Keep antifreeze in tightly sealed containers.
Do not spill antifreeze and if you do , clean it up immediately.
Dispose of used containers properly.
Check your vehicle for antifreeze leaks regularly.
Do not allow your pet to wander in areas where antifreeze may be.
Switch to “Pet-friendly” antifreeze that is propylene glycol. Small amounts of propylene glycol are not toxic to dogs or cats.


Read also: Why Sugar-Free Candy Is Harmful for Your Dog

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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