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Dogs like the taste of antifreeze, which is actually a chemical called ethylene glycol. Lapping up a spill on the garage floor can be lethal. As little as one tablespoon can kill a cat, and 1/2 cup can kill a 20 pound dog. Besides drunken behavior, the poison can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures usually within an hour or two of drinking.
The symptoms usually go away within 12 hours, but the digested antifreeze travels to the liver, where it is broken down into toxic by-products. These toxic by-products travel to the kidneys, where they can cause a complete shutdown, and the dog will stop urinating. By the time the animal stops urinating, it is probably too late to reverse the damage and the dog will slip into a coma and die.
A drug called 4-methylpyrazole (Fomepizole) is the antidote, but it must be given within an hour or two of the poisoning. If you see your pet drink antifreeze, make him vomit and then get him medical attention. You can prompt your dog to vomit by giving him 1 to 2 teaspoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide for every 10 pounds of body weight. The foaming action will trigger a gag reflex. You may repeat this procedure two or three times, waiting about five minutes between doses. The peroxide may work better if there is a little food in your dogs stomach, so try offering a small meal beforehand. If you do not have a needleless syringe, use a turkey baster to squirt the peroxide into the back of your dogs mouth. If he acts depressed or drunk, vomiting could cause dangerous problems, so get him to the vet immediately.
Every year, an estimated 10,000 dogs and cats are victims of accidental poisoning by ingesting antifreeze. It is crucial that pet owners not be given a false sense of security when using antifreeze with a bittering agent. While such products may be less toxic for households with pets, there is no scientific proof that they are in fact safe. As a result, pet owners should continue to take steps to ensure the safety of their pets from antifreeze poisoning, regardless of whether the antifreeze they use contains a bittering agent or not. Keeping antifreeze in a child-proof container and out of reach of dogs, repairing leaking hoses, and wiping up spills are three examples of steps that can and should be taken to protect your pets!