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Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats and Dogs

Though the weather has started to turn a bit cooler, August is not typically a month in which veterinarians see cases of anti-freeze poisoning. However, in the last two weeks the doctors at the Animal Hospital at Lake Brandt have treated two dogs for confirmed ingestion of antifreeze. Fortunately both dogs are expected to make a full recovery but their cases are a reminder that all pet owners should be extra vigilant to prevent this life threatening toxicity.

Ethylene glycol is a sweet-tasting chemical that is found in antifreeze as well other household products such as de-icing agents, windshield washer fluid, portable toilets and some heating components. Animals are attracted to the sweet taste of the chemical and will readily consume it. Unfortunately, the toxic dose for animals is relatively low meaning even a small amount of product ingested can lead to severe clinical signs up to and including death.

If your animal has ingested antifreeze, symptoms can develop within 30 minutes of exposure. Initially they may have vomiting, diarrhea and an unsteady gait. After approximately 12 hours more severe symptoms develop including cardiovascular and pulmonary abnormalities and severe kidney failure. Death occurs anywhere from 24-72 hours after ingestion.

Early diagnosis and treatment is critical. If you suspect that your animal has ingested antifreeze, seek medical care immediately. If the ingestion occurred less than one hour before your veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting. If more than an hour has elapsed the antidote to antifreeze may be administered, along with supportive care such as IV fluids and anti-nausea medication. Blood chemistry testing is indicated in all patients to evaluate the extent of impairment. If the ingestion was not witness, but is suspected, a test can be performed to detect ethylene glycol in the blood, though the false positive and false negative results are common.

The prognosis following anti-freeze ingestion varies depending on the amount of product ingested and the time it takes to initiate treatment. Patients that survive may suffer from long term kidney damage.

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to antifreeze toxicity. Animals should not be allowed to roam free as this can significantly increase their chance of exposure, especially in the colder months. Spills of antifreeze or other ethylene glycol containing products should be wiped up immediately and the towels disposed of in a sealed garbage bag.

Please take all the necessary precautions this winter (and year round) to prevent this life threating toxicity! If you have any questions or are concerned that your animal may have ingested ethylene glycol please contact The Animal Hospital at Lake Brandt immediately.


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