from Modesto, Calif., writes in this week on behalf of
her dog Tula, a 4-year-old Schnauzer, and her cat Zaney,
also 4 years old. Fran and her husband, Mike, have been
the caretakers for their two companions for all of their
years and had some concerns about the potential for
antifreeze poisoning. Neither Tula or Zaney have come
into contact with antifreeze but Mike has noticed
antifreeze in the gutter near their house and had heard
that it can be toxic to dogs and cats. He also had heard
there are other choices for antifreeze that are not
toxic and wanted to learn more.
must say I found this letter rather timely as I was out
driving an old car of mine over the weekend and my
cooling fans decided not to work causing the cooling
system contents to become too hot and boil over onto the
ground at the gas station.
fortune would have it, there were several firefighters
from a nearby station called out to clean up a spill
into the sewer drain. They saw what was happening to the
car an immediately began to clean up the spill. Within
five minutes they had eliminated the entire mess. I was
not only very thankful but also impressed that there was
genuine concern for a spill containing automotive
cooling system contents.
those firefighters were obviously aware, automotive
cooling systems can contain antifreeze solution, which
indeed is toxic to our companions, not to mention us as
well. Antifreeze is made up of several compounds with
the bulk of the more common types being made up of a
chemical called ethylene glycol.
substance is sweet to the taste and will readily be
lapped up by unsuspecting dogs and cats. Children also
can be at risk for ingestion of antifreeze. Once inside
the body, in simple terms, there is a chemical reaction,
which causes the formation of crystals in the kidneys.
enough antifreeze is swallowed, this crystal formation
will shut down the kidneys leading to death. If a dog or
cat that ingests ethylene glycol is taken to a
veterinarian within six to eight hours of ingestion,
they can, with treatment, usually be saved. Beyond that
length of time, it is unlikely they can recover.
cases can be a diagnostic challenge for us as
veterinarians if no one actually saw the companion
ingest the antifreeze. There are blood tests that can
help diagnose ethylene glycol toxicity but there is no
way to accurately know how long ago it was ingested
making prognosis difficult.
is because of this potential toxicity that it is
imperative that those of us who work on our own cars
make absolutely sure we dispose of these chemicals
properly and clean them up when they are spilled.
there has been available now for the past few years and
alternative to ethylene glycol-based antifreeze. It goes
by various brand names but all contain an active
substance called propylene glycol.
glycol is far less toxic than ethylene glycol, in fact
it is found in many oral preparations taken by people
and animals. It has been widely proven equally effective
in automotive cooling systems in every way to ethylene
glycol and I encourage everyone to use it for this