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Antifreeze: A Deadly Drink for Unwary Pet

May 26, 1988|Dr. GLENN ERICSON

Q. Last week my sister's cockapoo died from kidney failure that was supposedly caused by licking antifreeze. He became sick so fast that she had no idea what caused her dog to become so ill. A post-mortem test was done, and she said the kidneys had failed because of the antifreeze. Is this common? Why would any dog drink something like antifreeze?

Margaret Mosek,


A. Antifreeze toxicity is a common form of fatal poisoning in dogs and cats. Ethylene glycol is the toxic substance that is not easily detected immediately and is not always immediately recognized unless the owner has observed the pet drinking the substance. Generally, a cat or dog will drink water from the gutter that has been contaminated by antifreeze drained from a car's radiator or has been left in a pan before being thrown out.

The signs of ethylene glycol poisoning are vomiting, rapid depression, occasional seizures and coma within 12 to 24 hours after ingesting a lethal dose. The toxin is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and then forms calcium oxalate crystals in the kidneys. These crystals damage the kidney's filtering system, causing the kidneys to fail, and the pet dies from uremic toxicity.

Treatment requires immediate fluid therapy using ethanol to inhibit the crystal formation and sodium bicarbonate to reduce the acid formation. Success depends on the amount of antifreeze consumed and how soon treatment is started. The prognosis for these is always very guarded to poor. Always make sure that antifreeze is disposed of properly and not left around for your pets to consume.

Q. We have two mini-lop rabbits that we have had for about two years. One of them, the male, has developed a runny nose and is now less active than the female. They get plenty of fresh food and water and are not left out in the cold. Can this be a cold and should I have this treated? Is there medication that I can give in their water?

Marti Pullens,


A. Respiratory infections, often called "snuffles," can be quite common in rabbits. This is due to a bacteria called Pasteurella multocida and can become very serious. Often there is a thick nasal discharge that may also stain the feet as the rabbit rubs at his nose. There may also be some breathing problems as the disease progresses. I recommend that you have your rabbits examined by your veterinarian, who may culture the nasal discharge and start the rabbits on antibiotics. You should also separate them to help reduce the exposure of the female rabbit.

Got a question about your pet? Write Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, L.A. Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn.

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