Poisoned Pets: Ethylene Glycol Is Deadly

Ethylene Glycol ( EG) is a clear, odourless liquid that is reported to have a sweet taste. It’s most commonly found in antifreeze but can also be found in photographic developing fluid, hydraulic brake fluid, some cosmetics, some plants, radiator coolant, decorative snow globes and air conditioning coolant.

Studies have suggested that it’s unlikely that dogs or cats will consume any form of EG if clean drinking water is also freely available. But a thirsty animal may well lap at it, it may also be groomed off the coat and there have been cases where it has been intentionally mixed with something appealing for the purpose of poisoning the animal.

Unless you see your pet actually drinking something containing ethylene glycol, it is very unlikely that you will know that your pet has ingested any.  At first they may merely seem a bit wobbly on their feet, after which they might act as if they are drunk on alcohol. Stumbling, vomiting and depression are common signs and may be followed by seizures, then thirst and increased urination.

Then, for a short while your pet may seem like it’s  briefly ‘back to normal’, but give it another 6-12 hours, your pet will become depressed, go off its food, appear hunched up and begin vomiting.

These are classic signs of  acute kidney failure, which is usually what kills these animals. This is caused by products formed when the body breaks down EG and once it occurs, the only treatment available is supportive.

There is an antidote for Ethylene Glycol poisoning but to give it needs to be given as soon as possible after ingestion of the poison.  In cats, any treatment after 6 hours after consumption is probably too late to prevent a level of kidney damage that depends on the amount of EG swallowed. Dogs have a little longer before it’s crucial they are treated; 24-72 hours. Again, the level of damage depends on how much EG has entered the blood stream.

Once kidney damage has occurred, then the prognosis for a poisoned pet is very guarded indeed.

If ethylene glycol poisoning is suspected in a dog or cat, blood tests may be able to help with a diagnosis, but often not until it’s too late to prevent kidney damage. So if you have any reason whatsoever to suspect your dog or cat has had access to anything containing ethylene glycol, then get them to your vet as soon as possible.

This is an emergency!


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