The winter months can bring many challenges and dangers to your pet. Two issues in particular that present a danger to your pets are antifreeze poisoning and ice melt solutions.
It is estimated that roughly 90,000 animals are poisoned by antifreeze spills each year. Your pet can get to antifreeze and ingest the solution through open containers in the garage, leaks and spills in the drive, or even in toilets or indoor plumbing that may have been winterized. Antifreeze has a sweet taste and pets are very attracted to the solution. Many cats become sick or die because they walk through a puddle in the drive or garage and then clean their paws by licking them. Dogs are often playful and curious and find open containers in the garage and house.
The toxin in antifreeze is ethylene glycol. In addition to antifreeze, it can also be found in windshield wiper de-icing solutions, hydraulic brake fluid, and motor oils to name a few. Items inside the home such as photography developer, paints and solvents may also contain the poison. It doesn’t take much of the chemical to cause significant damage and be fatal. As little as one tablespoon can cause acute kidney failure in dogs and approximately five tablespoons can kill a medium sized dog. Just one teaspoon can be fatal to a cat.
There are three stages of ethylene glycol poisoning in pets. Stage one is similar to alcohol poisoning and occurs within 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion. Symptoms are staggering or “drunk” walking, delirium, vomiting, seizures, excessive thirst and urination.
Stage two occurs within 12 to 24 hours after ingestion. During this stage, symptoms may appear to be improving however significant internal damage is occurring.
Stage three occurs in cats within 12 to 24 hours and in dogs within 36 to 72 hours. During this stage acute kidney failure is taking place and symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, foul breath, depression, and coma
If you suspect that your pet has ingested ethylene glycol, seek veterinarian help immediately. Treatment for antifreeze poisoning and the effectiveness depends on how quickly the treatment is given after ingestion. If the animal is treated within the first few hours, vomiting is induced and charcoal is used to block the progress of the poison in the intestines. In addition, a medicine is given that prevents the animals liver from breaking down the poison. Remember, they key to the success of the treatment is how quickly the animal is treated after ingestion so do not hesitate to get to a vet.
Fortunately prevention of antifreeze poisoning is easy and simple and mainly requires good housekeeping. Always keep containers tightly closed and put inside a cabinet or up away from where a pet can reach them. Always wash and dry any leaks in the garage and drive from cars. Dispose of empty containers properly with a lid secured to the container and never allow your pet to wonder un-supervised in an area that could have the danger.
The second common danger to pets during the winter months involve ice melt solutions. Most home melts are made from sodium chloride or table salt. While this is not a poison it may cause some irritation and discomfort for your animal if ingested. In addition, pets can develop dryness and irritation to their paws and skin if they walk through a solution. Also keep in mind that just because the solution is not a poison does not mean that a pet can’t be harmed if they ingest enough of the product. If a pet develops drooling, vomiting, or any other symptoms call a veterinarian immediately.
In summary, these two common and dangerous solutions can be very harmful to your animal, however there is one simple practice that can be done to protect your pet and that is to wash their paws after walks. Cleaning their feet in a warm soap and water solution and then rinse thoroughly with warm water will remove any dangers they may have walked through during their walk. The small amount of time it takes could mean the difference between life and death for your beloved pet.