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Senator's dog dies of antifreeze poisoning

Antifreeze-filled puddles pose threats to cats, unleashed dogs

Posted: Friday, April 27, 2001

Bethel Sen. Lyman Hoffman's dog is dead because it drank contaminated water from a puddle on Basin Road Sunday.

Hoffman said he unleashed the 10-year-old cocker spaniel to let it run, but the dog stopped by a bridge above Gold Creek to drink from a puddle apparently fouled by antifreeze.

"There was a sheen on the water and we told her to stop. We brought her home, and we didn't think there was nothing to worry about. But the next morning the dog was really weak and was staggering around," Hoffman said.

The dog died Monday at a Juneau veterinary clinic, and the vet told Hoffman his pet likely ingested antifreeze. Hoffman said he was shocked by the death, adding he lives in an area of Bethel heavily populated by dogs and had never heard of antifreeze killing a pet.

"It must have been some freak accident or something," he said.

Pet poisoning by antifreeze actually isn't that uncommon, said Dr. Pat Taylor of Southeast Alaska Veterinary Clinic. Taylor estimates his Juneau clinic treats at least a couple cases a year, saying dogs and cats are attracted to antifreeze because it tastes sweet.

"Any climate that gets cold enough to require antifreeze, you're going to see (poisonings) because radiators leak or people change their antifreeze and leave it in an open container," Taylor said.

The substance forms crystals in animals' kidneys, eventually destroying the organs. Vets sometimes treat animals with medicine or by intoxicating them with an alcohol solution, which helps dissolve the crystals, Taylor said. However, pets that consume even small dozes of antifreeze often die.

"It's usually lethal unless the owner notices the dog or cat is ingesting it and gets to the vet clinic right away," Taylor said. "Sometimes we can save the pet. It depends on how quickly we get it and how much they ingest."

As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat, and less than one tablespoon can kill a 10-pound dog, according to the national Animal Poison Control Center, which encourages people to use less toxic propylene glycol-based antifreeze, instead of ethylene glycol-based products.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include depression, lack of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and seizures.

Hoffman said he assumed the Basin Road area was clean because it parallels Gold Creek, a major source of drinking water for Juneau.

Juneau water utilities superintendent Dean Nordenson said a puddle of antifreeze on Basin Road would not threaten the water supply because the city does not collect surface water from Gold Creek. It pumps drinking water from five nearby wells 80 feet deep, he said.

Kathy Dye can be reached at kdye@juneauempire.com.



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