Poppy is a 9-year-old intact male Dachshund who presented for ingestion of windshield washer fluid containing a de-icer. The owners noted he was very slow, wobbly, stumbling, and just generally not himself. He was normal up until the ingestion of the de-icer. Previous medical history included a slipped disk several month prior, as well as an enlarged prostate. Both of those problems had resolved with treatment, and at his vaccine appointment three weeks prior he was normal. Upon examination after ingestion of de-icer, Poppy was found to have normal heart and lung sounds, normal color in his mucous membranes, and his eyes were properly responsive to light. He was quite ataxic (wobbly) as he walked, and stumbled several times. Specific examination for spinal pain was negative, and his prostate was normal as well. Both of these previous problems can sometimes recur with signs similar to his presentation, and so needed to be ruled out before being certain that only the de-icer was causing his problem. After investigating the type of windshield washer fluid he had consumed, it was found to contain ethyl alcohol. This is similar to what is found in several alcoholic beverages, and is commonly known as grain alcohol or Everclear. As such, animals who drink this often present as "looking drunk", which they are. While not innately toxic, alcohol poisoning is a distinct possibility and prompt treatment is important.
Since Poppy's owners actually saw him drink the de-icer and knew it was only a small amount, they opted for conservative treatment. Fluids were given under the skin, and an anti-nausea injection was administered. He was also sent home with medication to treat any lasting effects he may have felt the following days. More severe cases may require intravenous fluids, additional injections, and/or 24-hour hospital care. Poppy came in for a follow-up and is doing very well.
While most people realize the dangers of de-icers, antifreeze, and salts, we are entering the summer season, and dangers are present here as well. Recently our hospital has had ant bait and tiki torch fuel ingestions present for care, and as the warm season continues we will see many more. Please remember to keep ALL potentially dangerous substances away from pets, including fuels, sprays, roach bait, rat poison, groundhog and mole poisons, and traps. These need to be locked away from your pets, not just put up on a shelf where they may accidentally fall or be knocked to the ground and spill, allowing your pet to "taste" them before they can be cleaned up. Inside the home, cleaning products are another source of potential toxicity, and these too need to be locked away, as many pets can learn to open doors. We want all our pets to have a safe and happy summer, free of emergency visits, so double-check your garage today!