Potential Toxins in your Garage
Burr, it’s cold outside. With these colder months ahead of us, many of our pets, who usually have better access to the great outdoors, are seeking warmer shelter in the garage. This is great to help get them out of the cold but there are other dangers to be found in the garage for pets if the proper steps are not taken. These dangers include, but are not limited to, antifreeze, carbon monoxide, car battery acid, petroleum products, and rodenticides (aka rat poison) to name a few. The three most common from this list are antifreeze, petroleum products and rodenticides. As the weather continues to keep our outdoor pets in the garage this winter, make sure to recognize the signs of some of these three most commonly garage found toxins.
Antifreeze: This is a liquid that prevents the radiator in motorized vehicles from freezing or overheating. Pets commonly come in contact with this liquid when it is spilled or as it leaks from a car. Antifreeze is highly toxic to both cats and dogs, particularly to dogs as it has a sweet smell and taste that dogs love. In a 10lb cat, 1 teaspoon alone can cause serious and irreversible effects to organs; in a 10lb dog, 1-2 tablespoons can cause the same serious and irreversible effects to organs leading to early fatalities of these pets. Early treatment is essential to help save the pet from this highly toxic chemical. Ideal treatment for pets that have ingested this chemical is within 8-12 hours; however, the sooner the animal can be treated for antifreeze toxicity the better the outcome is. Antifreeze has three stages of poisoning. The first stage is usually seen 30 minutes to 12 hours post ingestion where the pet appears to be inebriated, drooling excessively, vomiting, and possibly having seizure-like activity. The second stage is usually seen 12-24 hours post ingestion where it appears the symptoms have resolved when in fact, internal damage is continuing to take place. The last stage differs slightly in time for cats and dogs. For cats the third stage occurs in 12-24 hours post ingestion while in dogs it occurs 36-72 hours post ingestion. Both pets can show signs of decreased appetite, vomiting, seizures, lethargy and even slip into a coma. During the third stage, severe acute kidney failure is occuring for both pets. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, immediately seek veterinary help as aggressive medical management is needed to treat this toxicity.
Petroleum Products: This covers a broad spectrum of products ranging from oil fuel, solvents, lubricants, waxes, pesticides, and paints. These products carry a petroleum based additive that can be a harmful in many ways outside of ingestion of the product alone. It can also cause irritation to the skin and mucous membranes as well as an irritation to the lungs if the vapors from these products are inhaled. Pets commonly get this on the skin and fur when they walk through a spill or a puddle created from the leaking car. The pets natural instinct is to clean itself of annoying or irritating substances so they will proceed to lick themselves resulting in ingestion of the toxic product causing GI upset. Vapors from these products when inhaled can cause a chemical pneumonitis. Basically, the petroleum product spreads all over the surface of the lungs, causing inflammation in the lungs.
Rodenticides: These are specific poisons used to kill rodents. The two most common ingredient types of rodenticides are: anticoagulants and bromethalin. The anticoagulant rodenticide works to prevent blood clotting in the body resulting in internal bleeding that, untreated, can be fatal. This poison can be treated with an antidote of prescription Vitamin K. The bromethalin rodenticide works by preventing the use of oxygen in the brain. This leads to the inability for the brain to fuel itself thus resulting in cerebral edema or swelling of the brain. This poison is almost always fatal in high doses. In low doses, it is treatable with aggressive treatment but without treatment it is fatal. Signs for anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning are pale gums, lethargy, weakness, and exercise intolerance. Signs for bromethalin rodenticide poisoning are incoordination, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and if not treated, death. It is very important to inform the veterinarian what the name and active ingredient is of the rodenticide that was ingested as treatments for these poisonings vary greatly.
The best way to prevent your pets from coming in contact with these poisons is to play it safe. Keep the chemical locked up or stored in a different building where pets are not able to get into them. Check vehicles frequently to see if it is leaking any of these harmful chemicals. If a chemical is spilled, it is advised to remove the pet from that area before cleaning up as directed on the product labeling. When in doubt call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline for assistance; the number for Pet Poison Helpline is 800-213-6680.
Mandee Nelson, LVT