She may just look like a beloved pet having fun in the snow, but she is a miracle. Sweetie is the only dog in our combined 75 years of veterinary medical experience to have survived antifreeze poisoning.
Antifreeze poisoning is common in cats and dogs because it has a naturally sweet taste, making it ATTRACTIVE to animals to lap up. And it only takes a teaspoon to a tablespoon to be toxic to pets. Most animals come in contact with antifreeze when people drain it out of their motor vehicles and spill some in the driveway, leaving behind a small puddle or rinsing it into the gutter. Other animals have been poisoned when people use it in the plumbing of homes that are being winterized (cabins/camps) and it is lapped out of the toilet. Sadly, it has been used for malicous poisonings and inadvertent poisoning of pets when people are trying to poison wildlife or vermin.
The reason Sweetie is the exeption is because she has a very observant owner. She came home from her free run in the rural neighborhood acting mildly disoriented and staggering. The owner had not released any antifreeze, but it was the fall, a time when many home mechanics change their own antifreeze. Her owner wasn't sure what was wrong with her, only that something was wrong. She called the CDAEC (Capital District Animal Emergency Clinic), who asked her some questions and recommended Sweetie come in for an exam. The exam made the veterinarian on call further suspicous of inadvertent antifreeze poisoning, so a test was done that verified Sweetie had ingested a toxic dose of antifreeze. She was immediately
started on antidotes to block the antifreeze and released 1 1/2 days later feeling fine. There was some follow up, to verify there was no long term damage to her kidneys, but Sweetie has had 7 more years of playing in the snow, in a healthy body, because of the quick action of her owner and the emergency veterinarian.
Sadly, this is NOT the norm. Most animals that are not known to ingest antifreeze are not noted to be sick until the 3rd stage of poisoning, 3 or more days after the ingestion. At that point their kidneys are shut down, and many are never able to recover, even with potentially aggressive treatment. Stage 1 symptoms of poisoning can be mild or pass quickly and many owners don't even recognize that these vague and transient signs are significant and require immediate action to save the pet.
Be aware that use of any and all garage and home chemicals requires care and caution.
Use less toxic substitutes when available. And remember, just because you are being careful, not everyone will be.
AND don't be afraid to call your regular or emergency veterinarian to ask about symptoms that worry you! Most times, it is no big deal.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control, fee for service at 1-888-426-4435