Q: I've heard that antifreeze is toxic to animals. How toxic is it?

A: Antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, is extremely toxic to pets. Cold winters bring on the necessity of antifreeze, however, the use of this chemical exposes our pets to a toxic substance. This liquid is, unfortunately, pleasant-tasting and when a pet encounters it, typically having been spilled on the ground, they will usually lick it up readily. It only takes a very small amount to be ingested before there is permanent damage to their kidneys. If you think your pet has ingested any amount of antifreeze, it is vital that you take it immediately to your veterinarian for treatment.

For the best chance of saving the kidneys from permanent damage, treatment must be started within six hours of exposure. There is an antidote to antifreeze but it is extremely expensive and not readily available in Flagstaff, so your veterinarian will likely treat your pet with an ethanol mixture administered IV to counteract the toxin. This is used together with aggressive IV fluids to flush the toxin out of the body. A minimum of 48 hours is required to effectively flush the system of the antifreeze toxin. With aggressive, immediate care, most animals will be able to walk away with no permanent damage. Unfortunately, once the pet is exhibiting kidney failure, typically the kidneys are permanently damaged and the pet is euthanized.

There is currently a movement to get the manufacturers to add a taste deterrent so that animals won't be attracted to it. In the meantime, if you think there is any possibility that your pet has ingested antifreeze you must get it to a vet immediately.

Q: What is the hardest part of being a veterinarian in Flagstaff?

A: This is an interesting question. As I think about my life as a veterinarian here is Flagstaff, first and foremost, I feel incredibly lucky to be part of such a diverse and wonderful profession in which I get to meet terrific people who love animals. It is also fulfilling to be able to support the local animal charities.

The hardest part of my job is watching the emotional suffering of pet owners as they try to deal with an emergency with their pet. My clinic deals with a large number of animal emergencies and these are highly charged, emotional situations that no owner can possibly be mentally prepared for.

The hardest part of my job is watching the emotional suffering of pet owners as they try to deal with an emergency with their pet. My clinic deals with a large number of animal emergencies and these are highly charged, emotional situations that no owner can possibly be mentally prepared for.

It is the financial toll, however, of these situations that are the most devastating for most owners. Speaking for the profession, most of us did not enter this field to make money but rather to fulfill some deeper need to help and treat animals. Unfortunately, medical care is not free and we must charge for our services, and in an emergency situation, this can be devastating.

If I could give all pet owners one piece of advice it would be that when they adopt a pet they need to be mentally and monetarily prepared for the possibility of an emergency medical situation with their pet. This could mean getting pet insurance or putting money in their budget every month for pet expenses.

Emergencies never happen when you are expecting them and to have to euthanize a pet because of financial reasons is devastating. Trying to emotionally support an owner through this horrible decision is the worst part of my job.

Veterinary care is not free and good veterinary care is not cheap. Make sure you're prepared for emergency care by budgeting or purchasing pet insurance now and not regretting it later when you need it. Contact your veterinarian to find out more about pet insurance.

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