Pet owners are being warned about the deadly nature of antifreeze this winter, as motorists prepare their cars ahead of the inevitable colder weather.
Vets often see a significant increase in the number of pets, particularly cats, falling victim to antifreeze poisonings in the winter.
This year Cats Protection has recorded 189 suspected cases of antifreeze poisonings in the first ten months of this year, so vets are offering advice for drivers and pet owners to try and reduce the number of pets suffering.
“Not many drivers or pet owners are aware that their pets are at a high risk of falling ill from antifreeze,” said Dr Huw Stacey, vet and director of clinical services at Vets4Pets.
“But it contains a toxin called mono ethylene glycol, which is very harmful when consumed by animals, and ingesting even the smallest amount is enough to be potentially fatal.
“Signs of antifreeze poisoning can show within 30 minutes of ingestion, as mono ethylene glycol is very fast acting and, without treatment, a pet can die within 24 hours. Just one teaspoon can prove lethal for a cat and one tablespoon for a dog.
“Cats are particularly at risk because they tend to hide under cars for shelter and could lick up just a few drops of antifreeze that drop down from the engine.”
Among the advice issued by vets is for motorists to clean up accidental spills of antifreeze and for owners to understand the signs of poisoning in their pets.
Jacqui Cuff, Cats Protection’s Head of Advocacy and Government Relations said: “Tackling antifreeze poisoning is not easy, however, we are keen that antifreeze and other products containing ethanol glycol are labeled to warn consumers of the dangers to pets such as cats and dogs.
“Many labels already warn about the danger of antifreeze to children if the product is consumed, but we’d like companies to add a warning regarding the danger to animals too.
“In the longer term we’d like to see antifreeze manufacturers developing alternative non-toxic antifreeze products.
“We’d also advise people to clear up any antifreeze spills immediately and avoid using it in water features, to help prevent accidental poisonings.”
Any pet that has consumed antifreeze can develop kidney failure and, if left untreated, can be fatal.
Signs of antifreeze poisoning in cats or dogs include vomiting seizures and an increased thirst.
Dr Stacey added: “Antifreeze is sweet tasting for pets, which is why they are drawn to licking up spills or leaks from a car engine, or if a bottle spills in the household and it isn’t cleaned up thoroughly.
“It is also used in water features to prevent them from freezing over in the winter, so if a pet is out roaming in nearby gardens, they may come across a fountain and innocently drink the running water not knowing its poisonous effect.
“Antifreeze is helpful for our cars, but has detrimental effects on our beloved pets, so if an owner suspects their pet has ingested it, they need to take the pet to their local vet immediately.”