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Antifreeze Creates Deadly Pet Danger
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Fall brings a deadly risk to pets as many drivers prepare their cars for cooler temperatures by changing the engine's coolant.
Standard antifreeze is deadly to humans and animals. A substance in the antifreeze causes kidney failure when the body converts it to a crystal that stops kidney function.
Dr. Cory Langston, service chief for Community Practice at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said as little as a teaspoon of antifreeze can kill a dog or cat.
"Many pets die or have to be euthanized because signs of antifreeze poisoning often don't show up for several days after they consume it," Langston said. "If you see an animal drink antifreeze, don't wait to see if it gets sick. By the time you notice the animal is sick, it's often way too late to save it."
Langston said animals have just six to eight hours after they consume antifreeze for effective treatment; otherwise a slow, painful death is likely. The ideal treatment window is within the first four hours.
There are two antidotes for antifreeze poisoning. The older treatment is more commonly practiced as it is more economical. An animal is given ethanol, or grain alcohol, via an intravenous drip for two to three days.
"Antifreeze is an alcohol which a particular enzyme in the body converts to toxic crystals," Langston said. "By giving the animal ethanol, you tie up the enzyme that converts the antifreeze to a toxin."
Though this treatment requires hospitalization, if treated early with the antidote and supportive care, most animals recover with the only side effect being a hangover from being drunk for three days. The second treatment, a new drug called Antizol, has fewer side-effects but is more costly than ethanol treatment.
When a pet has ingested antifreeze, the first thing to do is to induce vomiting. Langston said this is best done by giving the animal one teaspoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide per five pounds of body weight. This should cause vomiting within 10 minutes. Then get the animal to the vet immediately.
"If an animal is not treated for antifreeze poisoning, symptoms start showing up in about two to three days later with the animal often living about a week," Langston said. "It's a pretty miserable death, and many people choose to have their poisoned pets euthanized rather than die this way."
New, safe antifreeze solutions have been developed that do not harm animals. Major antifreeze brands make nontoxic varieties that use propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Drivers who have their cars serviced at garages should specifically request the nontoxic antifreeze as most garages otherwise use the toxic kind.
Contact: Dr. Cory Langston, (662) 325-1265