Whats the topic for today?
Is antifreeze dangerous?
Yes antifreeze from car radiators can be fatal as it contains ethylene glycol which destroys the kidneys
Are animals likely to drink antifreeze?
Yes. It has a sweet taste so dogs in particular find it very palatable. The important message for today is don’t leave puddles of antifreeze lying around after draining the cars radiator. It is particularly dangerous in areas that get heavy frosts.
Why is that?
Animals can’t drink from frozen puddles. Puddles containing antifreeze don’t freeze so animals are more likely to drink from them if everything else is frozen over.
Does this happen in New Zealand?
Yes occasionally. Whole flocks of wild birds have died from drinking from the same unfrozen puddle.
What are the symptoms?
Initially vomiting and staggering. Once the kidneys become damaged they start to drink and urinate a lot and eventually go into convulsions. Ultimately they die of heart failure.
Is there any treatment?
Not once the kidneys have been damaged as the damage is irreversible. If we see the animal early enough though we can prevent the kidney damage
How can you prevent that?
We give them vodka
Yes thats right. Any source of alcohol would do but vodka is relatively strong and pure
How does vodka help?
Alcohol stops the liver from converting the antifreeze into the toxic substance that damages the kidneys. The kidneys can then remove the antifreeze from the body without becoming damaged.
Don’t the animals get dangerous if they are drunk, like humans?
Usually when we see them they are very sick and lethargic and the alcohol makes them even more sedated so no we don’t really see a problem with their behaviour.
How successful is the treatment?
Good if we catch it early enough. Antifreeze is absorbed very quickly so if we are going to help we need to start treatment as soon as possible. Unfortunately often the owner is unaware that their pet has drunk antifreeze so we usually don’t see them until the symptoms have already started. Once the kidneys are damaged it is too late.
So the message for today is to be careful when handling antifreeze around pets and dispose of it carefully.