Puppy antifreeze poisoning is one of the most deadly cold weather hazards and more deadly than frostbite or even hypothermia. Antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, is used in radiators and windshield fluids to prevent icing. It’s particularly attractive to dogs because it tastes sweet.
Cold weather that freezes outside water sources increases the chance your puppy might lap up spilled liquid from the garage floor. Some folks add antifreeze to toilets during cold weather to protect their pipes, creating another hazard. All pets are susceptible but puppies get poisoned most often because of their less discriminating eating habits.
It doesn’t take much to cause a problem. A ten-pound pup can be poisoned if he laps up less than a tablespoon of liquid from the garage floor. A medium size dog is poisoned by less than three ounces.
Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning
The body absorbs the poison very quickly. The first symptom you’ll notice is the pet acting drunk. He’ll act uncoordinated or wobbly. Affected pets can also develop diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased thirst and urination, and may suffer seizures.
These signs typically show up within an hour or two of the poisoning, and then the puppy may seem to recover. But despite feeling better, the toxin continues to do damage on the inside.
That’s because the liver breaks down the ethylene glycol and changes it into an even more toxic substance called oxalic acid that causes a shutdown of the kidneys. As a consequence, the poisoned puppy stops urinating. When that happens, pets rarely survive—death occurs in up to 88 percent of cases of antifreeze poisoning.
First Aid for Antifreeze Poisoning
If you suspect your puppy swallowed antifreeze, make him vomit before the poison moves beyond his digestive system. Vomiting will help get rid of the poison as long as it’s within 20 minutes of him swallowing the toxin. Only induce vomiting if your puppy is conscious. Then get your pet to the veterinarian immediately.
Vet Treatment for Antifreeze Poisoning
Your vet will run blood tests, urinalysis and check samples of the vomit to diagnose the puppy. Often, activated charcoal is given to help absorb any remaining toxin.
A drug called 4-methylpyrazole is an antidote to the toxin but it MUST be given within an hour or two of the poisoning to be effective. It is also quite pricy. The treatment is administered by the vet and your puppy may require hospitalization to support his kidneys during the treatment.
A less expensive treatment is to get the puppy drunk. The intravenous administration of ethanol results in about 80 percent of the poison being urinated out of the body unchanged, without being transformed into oxalic acid that damages kidneys. Pets that miss that two-hour window for effective first treatment may need supportive care such as intravenous fluids.
After Care for Antifreeze Poisoning
When the kidneys have been damaged, a special therapeutic diet helps support recovery during convalescence. Kidneys may be able to regenerate some function if given enough time to heal, particularly if kidney dialysis is available to take the load off the organs. A human pediatric-size dialysis machine has been used successfully in the university setting, but is not widely available for pets.
Another form of the treatment, called peritoneal dialysis, is not ideal but may be performed in local veterinary clinics to offer pets some extra time to recover. Very generally, fluid is pumped into the pet’s abdominal cavity, allowed to absorb waste toxins normally removed by the kidneys, and then drawn back out by syringe.
Prevent Antifreeze PoisoningIt’s much better to prevent the poisoning altogether by puppy proofing your home. Keep pets away from antifreeze and out of the garage or storage areas. Seal any containers of the toxin and store it out of pet reach.
Look for “pet safe” antifreeze products. New ones contain pet-safe propylene glycol instead of the deadly ethylene glycol so check your labels.
Also be sure your puppies always have access to fresh clean water. Look into providing water sources that won’t freeze, such as heated water bowls or those that won’t spill.