Just how toxic is ethylene glycol to a police canine? Some of you may be surprised that it is deadly to our partners. It is so dangerous that by the time you understand of even realize that your K9 has ingested it you are already too late. In this column I am going to go into detail on what ethylene glycol is, how to prevent your partners’ exposure, why it is toxic to your partner and how to survive an exposure.
Ethylene glycol is your basic run of the mill vehicle antifreeze. The importance to your police canine in reference to this is that it will kill and kill swiftly. What is it in ethylene glycol that drives our canines into it? It is a sweet–taste that is appealing to animals and consumption of very small amounts can lead to rapid kidney failure and death. Once those effects start taking place they are irreversible and most certainly will lead to your partner’s death.
There are a few ways in which your partner may come into contact with antifreeze. The most obvious is the classic example of the vehicle just simply leaking the antifreeze. As a result of a leaking radiator you may encounter it on driveways, gravel or dirt roads, and streets. It can even be found on the sidewalk, or opened cans stored in sheds, garages, or barns.
Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol that is highly toxic to dogs and cats. When your partner ingests the chemical concoction the metabolic products of ethylene glycol cause severe damage to your partner’s kidneys, which in turn affects the central nervous system. A very small amount of ethylene glycol is deadly. Timely intervention is crucial in beating the odds in favor of your partner’s survival. If you suspect an unintentional expose it is important to make contact with your veterinarian immediately. It takes approximately three to twelve hours for the first symptoms to occur. You will notice that your partner will appear to be confused, or intoxicated. You may see vomiting, your partner being very tired, or a terrible odor coming from their breath.
So with all this information available about antifreeze intoxication it happened to me. My K9 and I were assisting an off duty officer with a reckless driver that nearly ran him off the road. We weren’t far off from the call, so we went. The vehicle had already parked at a house on a white gravel driveway. The driver immediately made his way inside the house before our arrival on scene. Once on scene we could not get the driver or any occupant in the home to come to the front door. I made the decision to utilize my K9 partner to conduct an exterior vehicle sniff for illegal narcotic odor. The weather conditions at the time was light rain and the area we would be conducting an exterior vehicle sniff was dark.
I used my K9 on the exterior. He did not make any noticeable alerts. Once we rounded the front of the vehicle he pulled me to the driver’s side and underneath he went. My first instinct was that he was in odor and was at source. My partner being in antifreeze was the farthest thing in my mind at this point. After a few seconds I realized that he was not in odor and when I shined the flashlight on him my heart sank. He was licking the gravel. The gravel was already wet and I really didn’t have a way to tell if he was in animal odor or actually licking antifreeze.
A few minutes passed and I was watching him hard. I didn’t notice any type of intoxicating behavior. I had sent a message to my dispatcher on the computer to have her Google the information and I would be guided by that. A few more minutes passed and still no effects, so now I am thinking that I am over reacting to the situation. The dispatcher messaged me back and the intent of the message was that if you even think he was exposed take him immediately to the veterinarian. I made that call.