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Cats must stop dying from antifreeze poisoning, insists RSPCA

Monday 10 January 2011

The animal welfare charity is calling on the public and all antifreeze manufacturers to ensure that this winter does not have fatal consequences for cats.

Following the tragic case of five cats dying in from antifreeze poisoning on the same day in Norwich on 30 December, the RSPCA is renewing its plea for the public to take extra care when using the product.

Every year, the Society picks up the pieces from too many cases where cats are believed to have been poisoned by antifreeze.

The chemical ethylene glycol, found in some household brands of antifreeze, has potentially lethal consequences when ingested by cats.

Cats seem to enjoy the taste of this ingredient but they can soon suffer agonising deaths if they eat or drink it.

RSPCA scientific officer for companion animals Dr Kerry Westwood said: "Every year the RSPCA is made aware of tragic incidences where cats are sadly 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 RSPCA is dealing with more and more cases of cats suffering with 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.

The public should 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.

Left over antifreeze and water coolant should also be disposed 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.

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 six 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.

After ingesting antifreeze, cats can suffer symptoms including vomiting, seizures, appearing drunk and sleepy and an increased breathing rate. They will also often try to drink more fluids.

Owners should contact a vet immediately if they suspect that their pet may have been in contact with the chemical or if they see any warning signs or symptoms. The sooner the cat is treated, the better their chances of surviving.

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

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 log onto www.rspca.org.uk/poisoning

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