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Posts Tagged ‘kidney failure’

I am running this post again because too many people seem to be searching for a way to kill their neighbor’s dog or cat. Since it was originally posted on Jan. 31, 2012 this post receives the most hits almost every day and many reach it by searching, “how to kill an animal with antifreeze” or similar queries. Find information here about how to save your pet if it drinks antifreeze.

This is one of the most common forms of poisoning seen in dogs and cats. It usually happens when the antifreeze drips from your vehicle’s radiator forming a puddle on the garage floor or driveway. The active ingredient in antifreeze is ethylene glycol a syrupy liquid that seems almost addictive to some pets. You must take special care if you change your antifreeze yourself, since pets can get into containers left open or spilled. It is possible for a cat to poison itself by walking through a puddle then licking its paws. As little as five tablespoons of commercial antifreeze is enough to kill a medium sized dog. If you see or suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze you should make it vomit, by giving it a teaspoonful of hydrogen peroxide per five pounds of body weight, but not more than three teaspoonfuls at a time. If it vomits or not, take it to your veterinarian as quickly as possible and explain what you think has happened. If your pet has already vomited, do not try to make it vomit more. Do not try to induce vomiting if the pet is showing signs of distress, shock, difficult breathing or is unconscious.

Ethylene glycol is also an ingredient in some liquid rust-inhibitors, incorporated in solar collectors, used in many chemical manufacturing processes and can be found in a variety of household products. Check the labels! To be most effective, your veterinarian must administer treatment within three to eight hours. Ethylene glycol is actually an alcohol converted, by enzymes in the liver, particularly alcohol dehydrogenase, into oxalic acid. The oxalic acid combines with calcium in the blood to form calcium oxalate crystals that block the nephrons in the kidneys and result in kidney failure.

Since ethylene glycol is an alcohol, the early signs of poisoning resemble drunkenness; euphoria and/or delirium, wobbly gait, uncoordinated movements, nausea as evidenced by excessive salivation, lip smacking, dry heaving, and vomiting. This phase can persist for about six hours and the animal may appear to be better, not so! If untreated the signs progress to excessive urination, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, depression, weakness and eventually into fainting, tremors, convulsive seizures, and coma, all signs of kidney failure.

If you arrive at the animal hospital in time and give a history of your pet ingesting antifreeze, or your veterinarian runs appropriate tests and makes the diagnosis, before signs of kidney failure occur, there is a good chance your pet will be saved. Treatment involves the induction of vomiting. Using activated charcoal to bind any ethylene glycol still in the digestive tract is not effective, but may be indicated when other toxins are suspected. Since 1996, your veterinarian has had access to fomepizole (Antizol-Vet). This drug is an effective antidote, if administered intravenously before kidney damage occurs. Back in the olden days, we used grain alcohol as an antidote, significantly less expensive than fomepizole. Alcohol dehydrogenase has about 100 times the affinity for grain alcohol than it does for ethylene glycol. When used as an antidote the liver metabolizes less ethylene glycol and fewer oxalate crystals form. Depending upon the severity of kidney damage it still might be possible to save your pet with aggressive fluid therapy to flush the kidneys, and other supportive treatment. Some specialty practices may be equipped to provide kidney (renal) dialysis. You do not want to know how much a kidney transplant will cost, but it is possible, in both dogs and cats, in specialized centers with the necessary equipment and experience.

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I was educated about food-borne diseases and public health in veterinary school. We learned how to identify potential problems and how to prevent them because veterinarians play an important role in protecting our food supply. Food poisoning was something that happened to other people, not me and not my family.

Wrong! I have no recollection of hearing anything about Campylobacter sp. back when I was in veterinary school, it must have had a different name back in those long ago days. Now, however, I know a lot about Campylobacter jujuni and coli, the two most common causes of diarrheal illness in the U.S., estimated to affect more than a million people each year, mostly during the summer months.

Two to five days after exposure vulnerable people experience severe diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, with or without fever, nausea, vomiting, nice eh? The symptoms usually last about a week and most commonly resolve themselves without treatment, except when they don’t. Exposure is most commonly from infected poultry or produce but can occur from unpasteurized dairy products, contaminated water or foodstuffs and even from contact with feces from an infected pet.  Back in 2011 an agency of the U.S. government purchased raw chicken from a wide variety of grocery stores across the country. They tested those samples and found 47% were positive for the bacteria. That is a scary statistic.

Because I thought I just had a case of intestinal flu I treated myself with several commonly used antidiarrheal agents. After five days I had lost twenty-five pounds and there was no improvement in the severe diarrhea. On the sixth day I was feeling too weak to drive myself.  My son responded to my call for help and drove me to the ER.

I was severely dehydrated.  After the blood work was completed the ER physician estimated I was down to ten percent or less kidney function and in acute renal failure. Three days of hospitalization, intravenous fluids and treatment for the bacterial culprit brought me around, but it was a close call. Another day or two and I would have been a candidate for kidney dialysis, maybe permanently.

The lesson learned is that at my reasonably advanced age any illness can turn serious. I am old enough to be vulnerable, to a lot of things.  The problem is I don’t feel any different than I did when I was fifty or even forty and still think I can respond to illnesses as I did then by ignoring them.

During my hospital ordeal Charlize spent three days with my son’s family. Since she rejoined me she has been unusually aware and sensitive to me. She frequently comes over to check on me, sticks close by and is insistent about being petted. Dogs can smell things like uremia and my blood urea nitrogen, one of the kidney function parameters, is still slightly above the normal range. Charlize senses that all is not normal with me.

I have no idea what I ate or got into that resulted in this problem. I hadn’t handled or cooked any poultry product for several weeks prior and Charlize wasn’t showing any signs of a digestive disturbance so it wasn’t exposure to her feces. The only thing I can think of was that I ate a lot of cherries shortly before feeling the first effects of the food poisoning. I washed them, as I always do with fruit, but maybe not well enough. There is some evidence that ordinary rinsing with cold water may not be enough to wash off Campylobacter.

Anyhow for people of an age you are vulnerable, be aware! Pets are also susceptible to this type of food poisoning, usually from infected raw poultry, enough said about that. More than two days of non-responsive diarrhea and you, or your pet, need to be seen and your stool tested for this, or some other equally dangerous culprit. Dehydration and kidney failure are serious issues.

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