Ethylene glycol, commonly found in antifreeze, is a toxic substance to canines. It is attractive to them, due to its sweet smell and taste. Common clinical signs of ethylene glycol poisoning include a drunk appearance (lack of coordination), vomiting, lethargy and excessive urination. These signs can show within thirty minutes of ingestion, and within twenty-four hours, the patient may show signs of improvement, giving a false sense of recovery to the owner. It is critical to get veterinary medical attention as soon as toxicity or ingestion is suspected. After thirty-six to seventy-two hours post ingestion, severe kidney dysfunction, seizures and coma may occur.
A diagnostic tool called a Wood’s lamp (special ultra-violet lamp) may be used by shining it on the patients’ oral cavity, face, paws, urine and vomit, since some antifreeze preparations contain fluorescein, which will glow once illuminated under the lamp. Unfortunately, negative results do not rule out ethylene glycol toxicity; therefore subsequent diagnostic testing must be performed to support this method of detection.
Two antidotes may be used for patients that have been diagnosed with ethylene glycol poisoning; methylpyrazole (Fomepizole) and Ethanol (the main ingredient in alcohol). Hard liquors, such as vodka, may be delivered intravenously to the patient. However, patients need to be monitored closely during treatment to ensure they don’t make any bad decisions or wake up with any regrets, next to a random poodle!
It is critical to seek medical assistance for your pet as soon as you suspect something is wrong. Ethylene glycol is toxic to the body and will lead to death if not treated urgently and with care. Keeping items such as antifreeze stored away from your animals reach, cleaning up any spills, as well as keeping them on a leash in unknown places, are different ways you can help prevent your animal from getting into trouble.
Call your veterinary clinic and do not delay having your beloved furry family member examined. Antifreeze may taste sweet, but it can have sour consequences!
Written By: Brittany Gaw, RVT