Most pet owners know chocolate can be deadly to dogs. It’s slightly less well known that antifreeze, or engine coolant, even in small amounts, can be even deadlier.
Now there is some good news about this toxic hazard
Most antifreeze is made with ethylene glycol, which has an irresistibly sweet taste to many animals. Ingesting even small amounts of ethylene glycol can cause kidney failure and death if prompt treatment is not received.
A voluntary agreement was recently announced by major antifreeze manufacturers which addresses this attractive taste. Effective immediately, all antifreeze manufactured for sale in the United States will have a bittering agent added. The agent, also known as an aversive, will serve as a deterrent for animals that are drawn to the taste of antifreeze and engine coolant.
Some formulations of antifreeze are made with propylene glycol
This ingredient, used in “pet-friendly” antifreeze, is less attractive to pets. Pet owners may recognize this substance from ingredient lists on some pet foods. While it is considered safe in small amounts, it remains toxic when large amounts are ingested.
Propylene glycol-based antifreezes are much safer around pets. Product labels clearly show which active ingredient is used. In states without an antifreeze bittering statute, this is the only way to add a level of pet safety to antifreeze use.
Washington state has had an antifreeze bittering statute since 2005
Oregon was the first to pass a bittering statue in 1991. Seventeen states have passed laws requiring their use. Over the past 10 years, a national effort has been made to mandate the use of an aversive in antifreeze. Every attempt at the federal level has failed.
Despite repeated setbacks, a coalition of interest groups including the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) and the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) continued to work with manufacturers to craft this recent accord. In December of 2012, the voluntary agreement was announced. This is an encouraging step towards addressing a well known risk for pets.
Some dangerous products remain available for sale
While the agreement calls for the immediate addition of an bitterant, previously manufactured product continues to be sold. This will continue until all product manufactured prior to the agreement has been sold or removed from retailer’s shelves.
In states that did not have their own bittering statue in effect, it is left to the consumer to ensure the safe use of the products. The best way to determine with certainty if a particular product contains the bitterant is to contact the company through their 800 number and inquire about the specific batch number.
Even with the addition of the bittering agent, antifreeze, coolant, and other automotive fluids remain toxic to pets. Eliminating the sweet attraction from some of these products is encouraging, care should still be taken when using them.