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Antifreeze Danger for Pets

Dogs having fun - but danger may lurk under that truck!
Dogs having fun - but danger may lurk under that truck!

This Winter the weather is pleasant for a few days, and then temperatures drop again, often well below freezing at night.  You may have set up one or more shelters outside if you have outdoor pets, to protect them from the cold and especially the wind.  But one of the greatest cold weather threats to a pet’s health may be lurking in your driveway, and it can kill your pet without moving an inch.  It is anti-freeze.  Whether pets find it in open containers or in puddles underneath cars, anti-freeze can be extremely toxic.  Its sweet taste makes it enticing and conceals its deadly nature - as little as an ounce or two can kill a pet - or a small child.

     The damage is done by ethylene glycol - the active ingredient in many popular brands of anti-freeze.  Very little can be done for a pet that has ingested ethylene glycol.  The best treatment - the only treatment - is prevention.  Don’t leave antifreeze lying around in open containers.  And mop up leaks and spills IMMEDIATELY, then dispose of the rags in such a way that pets can’t get to them.

One approach to prevention is to switch to a safer antifreeze - one containing propylene glycol.  You still have to be careful -large amounts of the “safer” antifreeze can still kill pets.  But while small amounts of propylene glycol may cause digestive upsets or mild reactions in your pet’s nervous system, kidney failure or other lethal problems are less likely to occur.    The best prevention is still to keep ALL antifreeze away from pets and children. 

It is estimated that ten thousand (or more) pets die every year because they fell victim to the sweet taste of anti-freeze.  You use anti-freeze to protect your car’s engine - take some precautions to protect the animals.  It may cost a little more for antifreeze with propylene glycol, but in the long run it’s worth it to make sure everyone stays healthy, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.