Ask Dr. Dolamore |

Ask Dr. Dolamore


Dear Dr Dolamore, my dog died because he somehow licked some antifreeze. Could you please warn others so they are aware of the deadly effects? Thanks.

CCRD, Silverthorne

Antifreeze, or ethylene glycol is the toxic ingredient in the antifreeze in your car. Ethylene glycol is toxic to all creatures – including people and is the most common cause of poisoning of dogs and cats in the United States. It has the highest fatality rate of all poisons.

It only takes a few licks of antifreeze to poison your pet, even walking through a puddle of it and licking the paws is enough to cause death. The incidence increases substantially in the fall when automotive cooling systems and radiators are being flushed and refilled. Ethylene glycol is also found in brake fluid, liquid rust inhibitors, hydraulic fluids and solar collectors. Cats are approximately four times as sensitive to the poison as dogs. Animals are attracted to it because of its sweet taste.

Symptoms depend on how long it has been since the pet drank the antifreeze as well as the amount they drank, and can occur in 30 minutes to 12 hours. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, excessive thirst and urination, wobbly gait and severe lethargy. Pets may seem to improve 12 hours later as the ethylene glycol is metabolized by the liver and kidneys. However, a day later in cats and two days later in dogs, they can suddenly become much worse. They may become depressed, weak, and dehydrated and develop diarrhea, mouth ulcers, rapid breathing and seizures and coma. If you know your pet has been exposed, induction of vomiting and activated charcoal are indicated within 1-2 hours after ingestion; beyond this time, the procedure is of little benefit. Fortunately, there is an antidote if given in time.

There is pet safe antifreeze. One brand of this newer type of antifreeze is SIERRA, made by Safe Brands. A 50/50 mixture of SIERRA and water will protect a car’s engine to -26F; greater protection can be obtained by increasing the ratio of antifreeze to water, according to the company. SIERRA is available nationwide for about a $1 more per gallon than traditional antifreeze. Many of us feel the price is little to pay if it eliminates a serious threat to our pets.

Send your pet health and wellness questions to:

Dr. Dolamore sees patients at Frisco Animal Hospital, and Buffalo Mountain Animal Hospital in Silverthorne

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