The RSPCA is calling on the public and all antifreeze manufacturers to ensure that this winter does not have fatal consequences for cats, following the death of five cats in Norwich on December 30.

The RSPCA is calling on the public and all antifreeze manufacturers to ensure that this winter does not have fatal consequences for cats.
 
The animal welfare charity has renewed its plea for the public to take extra care when using the product following the death of five cats from antifreeze poisoning on the same day in Norwich on December 30.

Ethylene glycol, found in some brands of antifreeze, has potentially lethal consequences if ingested by cats.RSPCA scientific officer for companion animals Kerry Westwood said: “Every year the RSPCA is made aware of tragic incidences where cats are believed to have died from ingesting antifreeze and we are deeply concerned and saddened by this.

“Many of us are not aware of just how toxic antifreeze is so it’s really important that we all take care when using, storing and disposing of it. It could save an animal from an incredibly painful death.”

The chemical ethylene glycol (found in some brands of antifreeze) can be lethal when ingested by cats. Symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, seizures, appearing drunk and sleepy and an increased breathing rate. They will also often try to drink more fluids.

To lessen the chance of such an incident, the RSPCA is calling on the public to:

  • Take extra care when using antifreeze to avoid spillages or leaks as cats could be lapping it up, either neat or when water coolant leaks from car radiators.
  • Dispose of left over antifreeze and water coolant responsibly. The safest way is to take it in a suitable container to a council refuse site which should have facilities for disposing of hazardous fluids.

The RSPCA is dealing with an increasing number of cats suffering from antifreeze poisoning every year. In 2007, it took 41 calls but by 2009 this had shot up to 259. By November last year, 248 calls had already been taken.

There are concerns that cases of antifreeze poisoning could be deliberate. Under the Animal Welfare Act, those found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering face a £20,000 fine and/or 6 months in prison.

One of the main manufacturers of antifreeze has taken steps to try and prevent poisonings occurring. Comma Oil, which supplies antifreeze to companies including Halfords, has added an ingredient to make it unpleasant to swallow the product. However, there is currently no legislation to make such additives a requirement. There is also no law governing how people should dispose of antifreeze when it is used domestically.

If anyone has any information about suspected antifreeze poisonings they can contact the RSPCA in confidence on 0300 1234 999. For information on how to detect antifreeze poisoning, visit www.rspca.org.uk/poisoning

The Feline Advisory Bureau has also produced information for vets treating the condition. It is available at www.isfm.net/toolbox/info_sheets/antifreeze.html

 

Engine image ©istockphoto.com/jane
Cat image ©istockphoto.com/skodonnell
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