Antifreeze and Your Pet

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With spring here and summer soon approaching, it may seem odd to bring up the subject of antifreeze. But antifreeze is a necessity for your automobile’s cooling system as well as its heating system. The term ‘antifreeze’ is really a misnomer. It poses a threat to your dog or cat all year round.

Most antifreeze products contains ethylene glycol which has a sweet taste to our pets and children.  Accidental ingestion of antifreeze by our animals may occur if it’s left on the pavement in puddles, pans or in open containers.  The manufacturers of antifreeze have refused to use Bitrex, a universal bittering agent, non-toxic chemical used to change the taste to prevent accidental ingestion, in their products. Currently as of December 2012, it is illegal to sell non-bittered antifreeze in the USA, however this does not mean that all of the old antifreeze products are off the shelves or out of our garages.  There are non-toxic products available for your vehicle, so read the ingredients on the labels very carefully.

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Usually the first signs of ingestion of antifreeze are vomiting due to injury of the kidneys, however, other symptoms may be excessive drooling, staggering and loss of balance. It takes just a teaspoon of antifreeze to be fatal to a cat and a tablespoon to be fatal for dogs. Cats usually do not survive unless immediate emergency treatment is initiated. Ingestion of ethylene glycol will result in calcium oxalate crystals forming, which block the blood flow to the kidneys and eventually into the brain. Therapy before the calcium oxalate crystals form is essential and emergency treatment is imperative. Therapy is intravenous fluids, hospitalization, blood level monitoring, and the intravenous antidote, Fomepizole, an ethanol grain alcohol or Antizol.  (Fomepizole cannot be given to cats.)

Poison control centers for pets have  been established  and are staffed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, however there is usually a fee for their services. Poison control centers cannot advise the public on pet poisoning cases, however every product that is manufactured in the USA has a safe use advice of no human consumption or no human or pet consumption of a product.  Each product should also have a phone  number to call for consumer advice. At present there are no poison control centers in Virginia so contact  a national organization as they have a large data base of the most frequently encountered poisons as well as treatment advice . A case number is assigned and entered into their database and a follow up is done. From these databases more effective treatment protocols for thousands of toxin/poison are developed.

NATIONAL  ANIMAL  POISON CONTROL CENTER – 1-888-426-4435
($65.00 consultation fee). AKA ASPCA POISON CONTROL CENTER.

PET POISON HELP LINE – 1-855-764-7661 ($35.00 CONSULTATION FEE).

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