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Winter conditions can present a deadly danger to dogs and cats that pet owners may not be aware of: antifreeze poisoning. This sweet-tasting poison 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.
Animals may become exposed to antifreeze if it’s leaking from a car radiator onto a garage floor, driveway or the street. Pets can also gain access to antifreeze should it not be flushed from a home plumbing system or directly from the containers in your garage if they are not stored out of reach.
Why is Antifreeze Toxic to Pets?
Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is toxic to dogs and cats. The metabolic products of the ethylene glycol cause severe damage to the pet’s kidneys, which then produce a toxic exposure to the central nervous system.
A very small amount of antifreeze is deadly to pets. For example, if your dog or cat walks through a puddle of antifreeze and then licks his paws, enough antifreeze can be ingested to cause death.
What Are the Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning?
Clinical signs of antifreeze exposure can occur in as little as 30 minutes or as long as 12 hours. Do not wait for symptoms to appear to go to your vet. Instead, if you have any concerns about potential ingestion, visit a vet immediately. Symptoms include confusion, vomiting, an increase in thirst and urination, depression, lethargy, sores in the pet’s mouth and noticeable bad breath.
Immediate veterinary treatment is necessary to prevent the toxin from being absorbed into the pet’s liver.
Prevent Antifreeze Poisoning in Pets
Take preventive measures to keep your pets from accidental antifreeze poisoning:
Keep antifreeze in sealed containers out of reach of pets.
Dispose used antifreeze containers and rags in a garbage can pets can’t access or open.
Routinely check your garage floor and driveway for antifreeze leaks or spills.
After returning home from a walk, wash your pet’s paws in warm, soapy water in case they have unknowingly been exposed to antifreeze while outside.
Switch to a pet-safe, propylene glycol based antifreeze.
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to antifreeze, don’t hesitate — contact your veterinarian immediately to determine a course of action.