Learn About Antifreeze Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

This is the time of year when many of us winterize our cars. Changing the antifreeze can be a part of this process. Ethylene glycol, which is an ingredient in many types of antifreeze, is very toxic to pets.

You may be wondering how antifreeze can harm your dog or cat if it’s in your car. The most common scenario is when the antifreeze leaks from the car onto the floor of the garage or driveway. Pets that have free access to these areas are exposed to the toxin. It may seem hard to believe that a pet would be interested in trying antifreeze, but ethylene glycol generally has a sweet taste which can entice dogs and cats. Some pets can also be drawn to the puddle of antifreeze if their water source has frozen. The ethylene glycol remains liquid at cold temperatures and this can lead thirsty pets to drink it.

Ethylene glycol is very a very fast acting toxin. It can be detected in the blood in as little as 30 minutes after your pet has ingested it. Cats are very susceptible to the toxin. It can take less than a tablespoon of the liquid to cause illness in cats. Dogs are a little more resistant, but it can still cause serious issues or even kill dogs and cats at relatively small dosages. With the fast acting nature and small dosages needed to cause toxicity, it’s important that you take your pet in to see a veterinarian immediately if you think that they have ingested antifreeze.

The ethylene glycol in antifreeze causes calcium to crystallize in the kidneys, causing severe damage to the organ. This can lead to renal failure and even death if it is not treated quickly. It can also mimic excessive alcohol ingestion in humans, causing neurologic symptoms.

Signs of antifreeze poisoning include:

  • Acting drunk. This can include stumbling, falling down, staggering, and not being able to stand up
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination

If you notice any of these signs, your pet needs to be taken in to see a veterinarian immediately. To minimize your pet’s chance of ingesting antifreeze, clean up any leaks or spills as quickly as possible.