One winter we had an incident that all dog owners should know about.
One snowy morning after the garbage truck had been by our house, our dogs were outside. Emme and her Aussie buddy Alfie were licking the snow and Pamela and I happened to notice. We went over to investigate and saw they were licking at a blueish-green stain, probably left by the garbage truck. This immediately triggered all of Pamela’s alarms. She knew that if it was antifreeze, it would soon be deadly for the dogs in a horrendous way.
What is Antifreeze?
Antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, is lethal to animals. The problem is that it has a sweet taste which attracts animals to lick it. Engine coolant and hydraulic brake fluids have ethylene glycol. A leak from any of those places in a vehicle should be a red alert if pets are around. As little as one tablespoon can cause acute kidney failure in dogs by crystallizing. Once that happens, the damage cannot be repaired. It is a cruel and painful death.
Dogs caught immediately in the act of licking antifreeze have the best chance of survival because the vet will know what he is treating, and medical attention can be administered without delay. Getting treatment in the first few hours is critical as the crystals don’t begin to form immediately.
The Cure if In Time
The vet may do a stomach pump, where water is pumped into the stomach and then drained out to wash out the toxins. There is also a specific antidote for antifreeze poisoning, a synthetic alcohol called Fomepizole that is given intravenously through a tap in the dog’s leg. Oh man, now I’m getting into blood and guts, but this is about Emme.
Pamela kicked into action within minutes of the dogs licking the snow. She scooped some of the blue snow into a plastic bag, we threw the dogs into the car and I drove at high speed right to the vet. He seemed unconcerned and even said, “Oh they probably didn’t lick enough if it was mixed in the snow.”
Well, that brought out Pamela’s warrior side of her personality that I’ve learned to avoid at all costs.
“How do you know how much they ingested?” was her opening salvo.
Vet: “Well I guess I don’t.”
Pamela: “Then how can you possibly know if it wasn’t enough to kill them?”
The vet quickly sensed she was “weapons hot” and called over to the emergency room to prepare for the dogs. At the emergency room, they told Pamela that they had a limited supply of the Fomepizole, only enough for a couple of dogs. Pamela left no doubt in anyone’s mind that our two dogs were going to get all of it.
She took the bag with the blue contents to the gas station next door. They readily identified it as antifreeze.
We brought Emme and Alfie home, each with an IV tap in a leg and a bag connected to it with Fomepizole. After a few days, the dogs showed no distress, the ports came out and we dodged the bullet.
An estimated 90,000 dogs per year in the U.S. are poisoned by licking antifreeze. It can be on a driveway, on a road or even a dirt road leading to a hike trailhead. Look for it.