AUTHOR’S NOTE: Jake, Joey, and Nari, three beautiful and loved dogs, all from the same household in California, were poisoned by antifreeze a few days ago, and all three have died. So, I am compelled to remind you all about this deadly liquid again, from an article I wrote in March.
Our scorching summer months are upon us, and not only are we be back to the “you can fry an egg on the sidewalk” temperatures, but some cars’ cooling systems will overflow and cause anti-freeze to spill onto the sidewalks and streets of our city.
Unfortunately, anti-freeze has a sweet taste which is appealing to all animals, including wildlife. As little as two ounces can kill a dog and one teaspoon will kill a cat.
Let me warn you now…anti-freeze WILL cause the death of your pet if it is ingested and IMMEDIATE treatment by a veterinarian is not sought!!!
Pets rarely survive anti-freeze poisoning because the symptoms are very subtle and most owners aren’t watching their animals for the signs. If you suspect that your animal may have ingested anti-freeze, TAKE YOUR PET TO YOUR VETERINARIAN OR AN EMERGENCY CLINIC IMMEDIATELY.
I can’t stress this enough…death can ensue within hours. Ethylene Glycol (EG) turns into a crystalline acid which attacks the kidneys and causes a very painful death.
Anti-freeze’s active ingredient is Ethylene Glycol (EG), a fatal toxin. Animals either drink it directly from a container or a spill, or indirectly by walking through it and then washing their soiled paws and fur. The Humane Society of the U.S. estimates that the actual number of deaths of companion animals and wildlife due to anti-freeze poisoning is in the tens of thousands each year, making antifreeze coolant one of the most dangerous household hazards to pets, wildlife…and children.
Symptoms usually appear 30 minutes to one hour after ingestion and can last for several hours. The signs of EG poisoning are:
• excessive thirst and urination
• lack of coordination
• nausea and vomiting
• rapid breathing and heart rate
Treatment involves intravenous alcohol to prevent EG from being converted to oxalic acid, the substance that damages the kidneys.
Prevent anti-freeze poisoning by switching to a brand that contains propylene glycol (PG) instead of ethylene glycol (EG).
NOTE: Six states – Oregon, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Tennessee, and Maine – have passed legislation requiring a bittering agent making it unpalatable for animals and children. But, since Arizona’s population is transient and pulls from many states, concern for this type of poisoning remains. Unfortunately for the other states, similar laws are stalled due to potential costs to the industry. Even with anti-freeze that has the added bittering agent and does not contain EG, it is still considered to be a highly poisonous substance and take great care should be taken while handling.
Keep anti-freeze sealed and away from animals and children; clean spills immediately and completely and fix leaks right away. Don’t allow your pets to wander unattended near driveway, roads, garages, or other places where they could come in contact with anti-freeze. Keep other products that contain ethylene glycol—like paint, cosmetics and snow globes out of the reach of animals, as well as any product whose ingredients are unknown. Observe your pet for unusual behavior. If you think they may have ingested antifreeze, take them to a veterinarian immediately.
Ethylene Glycol IS a hazardous chemical! The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established an exposure limit of 50 parts per million and EG is regulated as a hazardous air pollutant. It is metabolized into oxalic acid which crystallizes the kidneys, causing death. In fact, the Colorado State University Veterinary Hospital reported that 50% of all poisoning deaths of dogs and cats were linked to EG.
So, what can you do to avoid the risk of poisoning your animals?
• When changing anti-freeze, keep your pets indoors.
• Avoid spilling antifreeze on the ground and don’t drain radiators into ditches or storm drains.
• Keep the new antifreeze in its original container.
• To store used antifreeze before disposal, put it into a clearly labeled, sealed container. Recycle or dispose of it at a garage with appropriate facilities for disposing of antifreeze.
• Thoroughly wipe up and wash away any spills.
• If your pet returns home covered with an unknown substance, wash it off immediately.
• Winter auto window washing fluids and products to prevent freezing in plumbing can also contain ethylene glycol. Check the ingredients, and if it contains EG, treat it the same as antifreeze.
• There is a safe alternative – switch to non-toxic Propylene Glycol formulated antifreeze. There are no performance differences between EG and PG…the choice is simple!
Here are some facts about the safer alternative, anti-freeze made with Propylene Glycol (PG):
• OSHA has not found it necessary to set an exposure limit for PG because of PG’s inherent low toxicity.
• PG is not considered an air pollutant and is not regulated.
• PG has an acrid (bitter) taste.
• PG has received a “generally recognized as safe” designation from the Food and Drug Administration, and pharmaceutical grade PG has been used safely for many years as an ingredient in foods, cosmetics, and medicinal products.
• PG is metabolized to lactic acid, a normal body constituent.
• PG is used as a moisturizing ingredient in many pet foods to keep the food moist and palatable.
The bulleted information above has been paraphrased from an article in Paws Magazine, December 1995, a magazine distributed freely by British Columbia veterinarians.
For a list of emergency veterinarian clinics in the Phoenix area go to the emergency clinic section of the PACC911 website at: pacc911.org/Emergency_Clinics.html
To read about Jake, Joey, and Nari go to: dogblog.dogster.com/2009/05/29/sad-day-at-dogster/