Antifreeze Poisoning for dogs for dogs

Antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, is a commonly available coolant for most water-cooled engines. It may also be used as an antifreeze in winter weather. Unfortunately, the chemical is very toxic and can be lethal, even in small amounts, to all animals.

Dogs and cats are naturally curious and will taste everything. Antifreeze is somewhat sweet and is often palatable to dogs. Newer coolants are now available that eliminate this sweet taste, but ethylene glycol nonetheless remains the most common coolant. Antifreeze is easily identified by its fluorescent green color. Rapidly absorbed by the gastrointestinal system, even very small doses of antifreeze can be fatal, if left untreated.

The liquid itself is not toxic. When it is processed by the body, however, it can produce severe metabolic changes and cause irreversible damage to the kidneys.

Clinical signs

Signs of antifreeze poisoning include changes in breathing patterns, vomiting, depression, lack of coordination, seizures, coma and death. These symptoms can occur anytime from 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion. The prognosis depends on when treatment is initiated and on the amount ingested. Kidney failure may occur despite treatment, resulting in increased urination and thirst, which may lead to death.


The diagnosis of antifreeze poisoning is made by blood and urine tests although some of these tests become negative by the time kidney failure develops. Antifreeze poisoning should be considered in any free-roaming dog or cat with consistent signs. Treatment for antifreeze poisoning needs to be started as soon after ingestion as possible to be effective. The earlier treatment is started, the greater the chance of survival. Once kidney failure develops, most animals will die.


The treatment for antifreeze poisoning depends on when the pet is presented to the veterinarian. If the pet is seen within a few hours of ingesting antifreeze, vomiting is induced to remove any antifreeze still in the stomach and charcoal is placed in the stomach to bind antifreeze in the intestine. Antifreeze itself is not very toxic but it is broken down by the liver to other components that cause the damage. If the pet is presented to a veterinarian soon after drinking antifreeze, a drug is given that impairs the liver from converting antifreeze to these toxic products, allowing the unconverted antifreeze to pass in the urine. These drugs are useful only when given early and are not effective after the pet is already showing signs of kidney damage.

Your veterinarian will hospitalize your pet for emergency and supportive care. Treatment may include the administration of activated charcoal to absorb the toxin, the injection of intravenous fluids and an antidote (one of two treatments: 4-methylpyrazole or ethanol, to counteract the action of the antifreeze metabolites). Long-term recuperative therapy may include a change in diet or a prescription diet that is appropriate for pets with renal failure

A pet does not have to drink a lot of antifreeze to be poisoned. Most brands of commercial antifreeze consist of 95 percent ethylene glycol, an extremely toxic chemical. Even a few licks of this sweet-tasting liquid can be fatal to a cat or dog. (Ethylene- glycol-based antifreeze is also extremely hazardous to children. Another source of help is the National Poison Control Center, 800-548-2423. This call will cost $50.
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