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June 26, 2014

Protecting Pets from Antifreeze

Whether the mercury is rising or falling, each season brings a new host of smells, tastes, and activities suited to what the weather has in store. With these changes come hazards particular to each season. One such hazard, especially in the winter months, is the ethylene glycol in antifreeze.
Dr. Pia Salk
Pets Contributor
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Antifreeze is a huge hazard  to pets, even in very small doses. Furthermore, the agent that makes it toxic is often also present in products like deicing agents, plumbing pipe solutions, chemicals for photo developing, hydraulic brake fluids, and even the bases of portable basketball hoops as a filler to weigh them down.

Some useful tips regarding antifreeze/ethylene glycol:

  • If you suspect that an animal has walked through or ingested any amount of the substance, get him/her to a veterinarian immediately. Survival depends predominantly upon early intervention, before it can affect the liver and kidneys.
  • Always clean up any and all leaks/spills of antifreeze immediately and effectively. Suggestions for how best to do so include using sand, laundry detergent, newspaper, and even placing tabasco or pepper on the site after cleaning it fully to deter animals from licking the area.
  • Use alternative antifreeze products instead of those with ethylene glycol.
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  • Support laws that restrict the toxin or that require bitter additives be added to deter animals from ingesting it.
  • Educate others on the extreme lethality of this substance.
  • Alert others of spills and assist in ensuring the puddles are appropriately cleaned up.
  • Keep materials in your car to absorb and clean up spills as you discover them.
  • Avoid touching the substance, as even absorption through the skin can be hazardous.

Fortunately, some states have begun stipulating that antifreeze makers include a bitter-tasting additive to deter ingestion by children and animals. But until this is done across the board and until enforcement ensures compliance, this very potent toxin remains a readily available and serious threat. Please do what you can to keep wildlife, children, and your own precious fur kids, as well as those who reside in your neighborhood, safe and happy this winter season!