Pet poisonings perplex animal control officers, sheriff
At least four dogs in the Meyers area have been intentionally poisoned with a combination of hot dogs and antifreeze, a toxin which is painfully fatal when untreated.
“We can’t prove one way or another who has committed this,” said Sgt. Bob Johnston, of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department. “We do know that at least four dogs have been poisoned. It was a combination of antifreeze with hot dogs mixed in and it was in the Cherokee, Paiute and Mohave area out in Meyers. Most of the poisonings occurred in the month of July.”
Once an animal consumes antifreeze, multisystemic signs of acute ethylene glycol poisoning make diagnosis difficult. There is only a six-hour window in which treatment is effective, said Dr. Patricia Handal, of the Emerald Bay Veterinary Hospital.
Handal said unless an owner actually sees their pet walk through or digest antifreeze there are no clinical signs until it’s too late.
“The only cases I have seen up here at Lake Tahoe have all been four or five days down the road,” Handal said. “You need to treat them within the first six hours or it’s a lost cause.”
The torturous toxins in antifreeze attack the liver, resulting in death.
“The first thing it does, it can cause central nervous system damage,” she said. “(Animals) fall over and become wobbly. Then it usually will cause some difficulty in breathing, then the worst part is where the kidneys are damaged to the point of no repair and the animal begins to vomit. Then they basically go into a coma and die.”
Cases that are recognized in time, can be treated by a veterinarian with an injection of Everclear vodka, said Handal.
“The alcohol neutralizes the toxic compound,” she said. “It prevents the antifreeze from metabolizing to the toxic form inside the liver.”
The Sheriff’s Department continues to investigate the Meyers poisonings and Johnston said complying with the leash law is the best way for people to ensure the safety of their pet.
“If you want to keep your dog alive and you live in that area, you don’t want to let it run loose,” he said. “That’s the important thing.”
Handal also commented on the importance of not letting pets roam freely.
“I don’t approve of trying to kill animals, but I can appreciate the frustration when animals are coming into yards and defecating and the problem is not being addressed,” she said. “But under no circumstances should an animal be killed. And this is a cruel death. This is a painful death. I don’t understand it. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of intentional antifreeze poisoning.”
One tablespoon of antifreeze is lethal to a cat, while three to four tablespoons are fatal to dogs, depending on the size. Other deadly poisonous compounds, resulting in similar effects, include rust removers, color film developing fluid and some brake fluids.
“It doesn’t take much,” said Handal, who explained that animals like antifreeze because of its sweet taste. “That is the scary part about this thing. And these are not just toxic to animals. They’re toxic to your children, as well.”
Purposely poisoning an animal is a misdemeanor that carries up to a year of county jail time and/or a fine.
“And of course, if someone is convicted of this, the people who own the animals could certainly sue,” Johnston said.
For more information on antifreeze poisoning, contact Emerald Bay Veterinary Hospital at (530) 544-2518.
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