Candi Amundson, CVT
Senior Veterinary Information Specialist
Spring has sprung and many of us are doing lots of spring cleaning which includes the garage or shed. Often times we will put products that are not safe to keep in the house out in the shed or garage where it is not as easily accessible. Here are 7 toxins to be aware of while in the garage or shed with your pet. This is not a complete list, however should help guide you in the right direction in pet-proofing your garage!
FOR THE CAR
Ethylene Glycol (Antifreeze) is a sweet, odorless liquid that is attractive to all animals. This is commonly used in vehicles to keep the engine from freezing and acts as a coolant during hot temps. The amount needed to cause kidney toxicity varies but generally speaking the greater the concentration, the higher the risk. Treatments need to be instituted promptly and cats are more sensitive than dogs. It is imperative to start therapies on cats within 3 hours and dogs ideally within 6 hours. Treatment generally includes supportive care as well as Fomepizole or Ethanol.
Diethylene Glycol (Brake Fluid) is very similar to Ethylene Glycol but has a wider safety margin. Interesting fact: Diethylene Glycol will not give you a positive Ethylene Glycol urine test. Additionally, unlike ethylene glycol, calcium oxalate mono or dehydrate crystals do not form in the urine. It is still possible to see acute kidney failure if a sufficient amount of the product is ingested. The treatments are very similar to Antifreeze.
Methanol (Windshield Washer Fluid) is a volatile alcohol also known as methyl alcohol or “wood alcohol;” it is colorless, clear, and faintly sweet smelling. Alcohols are quickly absorbed from the stomach and will commonly cause central nervous system signs (lethargy, ataxia, and depression), hypoglycemia, and GI signs (vomiting, abdominal pain). Most pets will develop depression, lethargy, ataxia, disorientation/inebriation, vomiting, abdominal pain, tremors, seizures, and difficulty breathing. There are many brands and concentrations of Methanol in windshield washer fluid and the concentration can vary but commonly will be around 20-30% Methanol. Standard protocol for treatments would include close monitoring and symptomatic supportive care at the Vet.
ON THE SHELF
Petroleum Distillates/Aspiration Risks can be found in many products on the shelves in your garage. Products can include but are not limited to the following: paint thinner, mineral spirits, kerosene, gasoline, propane, butane, motor oil and lubricants, some paints, and citronella torch fluid. This can be irritating to the skin and if prolonged contact there is risk for inflammation and ulceration. NEVER induce vomiting! The greatest risk is for aspiration pneumonia which can result inadvertently during ingestion or even while the pet vomits. Most commonly pets will have signs and symptoms of: coughing, wheezing, chest congestion, or difficulty breathing. Treatments consist of diagnostics and supportive care to treat for chemical pneumonia.
Glues/Adhesives generally cause skin irritation or mild stomach upset when ingested. There are a few to be aware of that hold potential to be dangerous. Glues that contain Diisocyante, Diphenyl methane diisocyanate, Phenylisocyanate, Toluene diisocyanate, and Hexamethylene diisocyante are likely to cause expansion in the stomach and can lead to foreign body obstruction. Super glue (cyanoacrylates) does not cause expansion in the stomach. For removal on the fur and skin you may try vegetable oil or mayo to loosen but avoid scissors to prevent cutting or causing injury to the skin. Follow that with a dish soap wash and rinse thoroughly to remove the oil.
Rodenticides/Insecticides can be found on the shelves in the garage to keep out of the reach of pets and children. Some rat & mouse poison can cause internal bleeding, brain swelling (seizures), and affect to the kidneys. Most of the insecticides used have fairly wide safety margins with the exception to some of the organophosphate-based insecticides (Malathion/Diazinon) that can cause serious or life-threatening signs. There are also products that may combine insecticides with fertilizers or sprays that are used on plants or vegetation. Pyrethroid insecticides are very common insecticides and typically are low concentrations. Be aware of Bifenthrin granular lawn products; when ingested in small amounts may only cause mild stomach upset, however in large amounts there have been reports of dogs developing tremors and trouble walking.
Fertilizers generally contain ingredients that will cause mild stomach upset when ingested and risk for a foreign body obstruction in large quantities. You may find on these labels the ingredients can include manure, bat guano, bone meal, or blood meals that may be smelly and entice animals to eat these products. Massive quantities can cause clumping and lead to a foreign body obstruction. Iron is the ingredient of most concern as this could lead to heavy metal toxicity depending on the amount and concentration ingested.
If you find your pet has been exposed to any of these toxins; please remove them from the area and try to rinse or wash with dish soap to remove any product on the fur/skin. It is always best to consult a Veterinarian or Poison control before inducing emesis or providing any other therapies at home. As discussed previously, petroleum distillates would be an example of a substance that you would never induce emesis after exposure. If you find yourself in a medical emergency please call your Veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline®. We are available 24/7 and all major holidays. Happy Spring!