Whether you're changing your own oil or just adding more windshield wiper fluid, it's important to know that the automotive fluids you're dealing with can be harmful to dogs and cats. Accidental ingestion of, or contact with, some of these chemicals can lead to painful side effects and even fatal poisoning, so preventing exposure is key. Your first rule of the garage: don't let pets have access to any mechanical fluids (among many other chemicals kept in the garage). Furthermore, know the symptoms! Recognizing the signs that may arise from poisoning is an important part of being a responsible pet parent.
What are the symptoms of foreign liquid poisoning?
Antifreeze is the most common car fluid that pets will regularly be exposed to, or even ingest. They may find it leaking onto a garage floor and lick it up, or in a toilet bowl during winter to prevent pipes from freezing. Unfortunately, it's serious: Antifreeze poisoning can cause multi-system organ failure and lead to death if not recognized and treated early. Symptoms of poisoning from any fluid will be similar, though. These include:
- "Drunken" behavior or wobbly movements
- Increased heart rate
- Seizures, convulsions, and tremors
- Fainting ComaExcessive urination
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you are positive your pet has ingested a poison, call the Pet Poison Hotline at (800) 213-6680. They will tell you if you should (and how to) induce emergency vomiting in your pet. They will also help you make sure your pet is stable until you can get into an emergency vet hospital.
Your veterinarian will require your pet's detailed medical history, including a background of everything your pet has come into contact with that day. The vet may induce vomiting or administer charcoal (or poison antidotes), as well as run full blood work, a urinalysis and stool sample test if possible. Expect intensive care to prevent kidney failure and possible hospitalization.
For symptoms with a sudden onset, like seizures, call the Pet Poison Helpline or your local emergency veterinary care line and never give your pet medications without first consulting a vet or certified hotline. It is absolutely imperative to see the vet if you think your pet has been poisoned.
What's the cost of veterinary care for poisoning?
The total diagnosis and treatment costs of antifreeze (or other fluid) poisoning run at an average of $500. Pet insurance can cover up to 90 percent of this bill, depending on your type of plan and if you are past the customary waiting period.
How to prevent foreign fluid poisoning.
The easiest and most important part to avoid poisoning your pet is to simply keep fluids out of paw's reach. Store antifreeze in a cabinet or high shelf, securely closed in a container to thwart curious kitties and pups who have gone to places where they shouldn't be. When you do take out these fluids, make sure there are no animals around and clean up any spills or leaks.
If you are using antifreeze in toilet bowls, use child locks to keep the toilet lid down, or make sure bathroom doors are always firmly closed. Always provide your pet with a bowl of fresh water to avoid them seeking a drink in the toilet! Always keep an eye on your pet for any suspicious or unusual behaviors that last longer than 48 hours.