Antifreeze and Pets — a Lethal Combination

Without a doubt, antifreeze is the most dangerous item in your garage. Autumn, when people are changing their radiator fluid, is the time of greatest danger. Antifreeze is apparently sweet and pleasant-tasting, but the main ingredient of many brands, ethylene glycol, is deadly poison to dogs, cats, and children.

Most commercially sold antifreeze is 95 percent ethylene glycol. Its metabolites attack and destroy the kidneys, and the results are coma and death. Unfortunately, when dogs start drinking the stuff, they don't stop.

Because antifreeze is necessary for drivers in colder climates, try using one based on propylene glycol, rather than ethylene glycol. A propylene-glycol-based antifreeze is more expensive, but it's worth it. Propylene glycol affects the central nervous system but not the kidneys. Tufts Veterinary Newsletter estimates that a medium-sized dog would need to ingest about 20 ounces of propylene glycol before getting seriously ill, while only 2 ounces of the more deadly ethylene glycol can kill. Propylene glycol is less tasty to dogs than is its deadly cousin. Remember: Even though propylene glycol is considerably less toxic that ethylene glycol, it is still a poison.

The best solution when it comes to antifreeze is prevention. Keep all antifreeze locked away from anywhere your pet may possibly go. And, no matter what kind of antifreeze you use, clean up any spills immediately. You can use cat litter to absorb most of the liquid; follow up with rags. And dispose of the stuff carefully. Although antifreeze is biodegradable, it takes a couple of months to degrade. Rinse the area of the spill thoroughly with water.

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