What is antifreeze poisoning in cats?

Antifreeze is a coolant used in the radiator of cars. For pets, however, it is a deadly poison. Cats can be killed by ingesting even a tiny amount of antifreeze. A few licks of it can cause antifreeze poisoning, which is caused by a chemical called ethyl glycol. This chemical shuts down the kidneys of the cat, causing death. It is especially dangerous because cats like the taste, and they will frequently lap it up if they encounter it.

   

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What are the symptoms?

The cat may appear to be drunk - staggering around, vomiting, and general depression. The problem is that these are pretty generic symptoms, and most owners do not catch it in their cat until the animal has sustained severe kidney damage.

What is the treatment?

First of all, if you've got other pets, clean up any vomit - there are many cases where multiple pets in a household will die because they will lick the vomit of the other pet, thus exposing both pets.

Second, if you even suspect poisoning, rush to the vet immediately. If your vet catches it early, there are drugs that can prevent it from being absorbed in the kidneys and force it out through the urine.

How can I prevent it?

First, make your cats indoor cats. This should be a no-brainer of a decision - cats that live indoors live longer, happier lives.

Second, you should dispose of antifreeze properly. It is NEVER OK to dump it somewhere or pour it on the ground. This does not matter if you have pets or not. Children die of this as well. If any of your neighbors do this, you need to let them know not to. Never leave antifreeze out in the open, even if you think you're only doing it for a minute.

Third, watch your driveway for puddles or leaks from your car.

Fourth, know that you can get antifreeze that is more expensive but does not contain ethyl glycol and is much less likely to be fatal to any pets that drink it.

Fifth, know that there are other sources for antifreeze than cars. Snowglobes often contain a small amount and can be dangerous to pets if they break. It can also be in other chemicals such as break fluid and even solar panels.

Sources and Useful Links:

http://www.2ndchance.info/antifreeze.htm

http://www.sniksnak.com/cathealth/antifreeze.html

http://www.cfainc.org/articles/antifreeze.html

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