Safer Forms of Antifreeze to Keeping Your Pets from Poisoning

With winter comes a whole new set of maintenance problems in our homes and cars. Chemicals may be more accessible in our homes or garages and because of this we need to remember that approximately 10,000 pets die each year from poisoning from antifreeze. The primary ingredient in anti freeze is ethylene glycol which is a very sweet tasting chemical, appealing to children and adults. Just a couple of ounces are lethal to both pets and children. The most common occurrence of pet poisoning is when pets lick the chemical from the driveway or floor of the garage.

How does the antifreeze get on the floor? Usually from a car boiling over, hose leaks or when adding antifreeze to your vehicle during months when extra protection is needed in your car. Another way that antifreeze poisoning occurs is when flushing your system yourself at home or when you incorrectly dispose of the radiator waste from your car. What about antifreeze is so attractive to pets? Pets are attracted both the smell and taste of antifreeze are attractive to your pet.

Another source of antifreeze is the decorative “snow globes” glassware. The liquid in these displays contain 2% antifreeze and are very toxic. A young cat was poisoned when ingesting some of the liquid from a shattered “snow globe”.

To avoid potential poisoning:

Make sure antifreeze containers are well secured and your animal has plenty of fresh water.

Remember that your car can leak coolant at any time. If you see a puddle of greenish-colored liquid in your driveway, flush the area with plenty of water and don’t delay locating and fixing the leak.

Clean up antifreeze spills by spreading cat litter on the spill, clean up with rags (which are bagged immediately) and then rinse.

Use a less toxic propylene-glycol-based antifreeze in the car. Propylene glycol, on the other hand – although not entirely nontoxic – is considerably less toxic than ethylene glycol.

If you pet is going to be outside be sure to leave plenty of water available so they are not tempted to ingest in something that is not safe for them.

If your standard practice is to take your car to a mechanic for its winter preparations, be sure to ask specifically for a propylene-glycol-based antifreeze. (But be prepared to pay a little more.) There are several nationally available propylene- glycol antifreezes on the market, including: Sierra (Safe Brands Corp.,); Sta-Clean ; and Prestone LowTox�® Antifreeze/Coolant-available at most automotive stores and departments Vehicle Systems Incorporated provides a service bulletin, which although somewhat dated, can provide you with a starting point to look for alternative antifreeze products in your state.

If you think your pet may have ingested anti freeze getting them to a veterinarian within the first 9-12 hours is essential. During the initial stages of poisoning your pet may act differently, or drunken or be vomiting. During the second stage of poisoning the pet starts to metabolize the antifreeze into a fast acting poison that within 12-36 hours of ingesting it causes the animals kidneys to stop functioning and then causes them to slip into a coma.

Don’t wait for the second stage, as soon as your pet exhibits the first stages of poisoning get them treated. The faster your pet is treated by a veterinarian the better the chances of recovery as well as a more accurate diagnosis of whatever is causing the poisoning symptoms of a “drunken appearance” and vomiting.

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