Dr. Julie Damron

2 minutes reading time (385 words)

How to keep pets safe from the dangers of...

Your Pets
By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record January 12, 2008

People commonly change their car's antifreeze at this time of year. That can be deadly for dogs and cats.

The problem occurs when pets consume fluid that has spilled on the ground or has leaked from the car's coolant system or radiator. Many brands of antifreeze include ethylene glycol, which is toxic for animals. Even a small amount can be deadly for your pet.

Ethylene glycol is metabolized rapidly in the liver, resulting in gastrointestinal irritation and changes in the acid/base balance. That triggers neurological problems and causes severe kidney damage by destroying the renal tubes' lining.

Symptoms of toxicity can occur as soon as one hour after ingestion. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms occur, extensive kidney damage already might be present. This is why it is vital you take your pet to your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital immediately if you suspect that he or she has ingested antifreeze.

There are three stages of antifreeze toxicity.

The first occurs during the initial 12 hours after ingestion. During this time, your pet might show mild depression, poor balance and seizures. They also may not want to eat; might vomit, have a decreased body temperature and noticeable head tremors; and might drink and urinate frequently.

The second phase occurs 12 to 24 hours later, when patients often have increased heart and respiratory rates. The third phase takes place up to 72 hours later and can include severe depression, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, seizures, coma and death.

It can be difficult to diagnose antifreeze toxicity. Owners often don't see the pet consuming the liquid, and there are few tests available to identify the presence of ethylene glycol toxin rapidly.

Here are some things you can do as a pet owner to prevent this tragedy:

  • Clean up any antifreeze spills immediately.
  • Dispose of used antifreeze in secure packaging, as well as any materials that could be contaminated.
  • Store all toxic chemicals in sealed, well-labeled containers. Keep them out of reach of animals and small children.
  • Purchase antifreeze products that don't contain ethylene glycol. Sierra and Prestone LowTox Antifreeze are both flavored to discourage animal consumption and contain propylene glycol, which is less toxic to dogs and cats.
Julie Damron is a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Clinic in Stockton. Contact her at . Read all Damron's columns at recordnet.com.
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