Anti-Freeze and Toxicity to Pets

Anti-Freeze and Toxicity to Pets

Anti-Freeze and Toxicity to Pets

Anti-Freeze and Toxicity to Pets

Anti-Freeze and Toxicity to Pets


Anti-Freeze and Toxicity to Pets

Antifreeze is a something that is often found in garages across the country, particularly in the winter months. This is because it’s main purpose is to stop the water in your vehicle's engine from freezing, which can cause damage to the radiator and other components. Antifreeze also protects the engine from corrosion, aids heat transfer and prevents internal scale from building up and causing damage.

The principal component of antifreeze is an organic compound called ethylene glycol. Odorless, colorless but very sweet in flavor, it is the ethylene glycol that makes anti-freeze highly toxic to pets. Unfortunately, because it is very sweet, it can prove to be very tempting to any animals that happen to come across it. For this reason, you should store anti-freeze well out of reach of both domestic and wild animals. You should also endeavor to spot and clean away any spills as quickly as possible, as a small puddle of antifreeze will seem like the perfect treat drink to any that are passing.

How toxic is anti-freeze?

Anti-freeze is so toxic to pets that just 2 teaspoons can be lethal to cats, while a couple of tablespoons can prove fatal for a medium-sized dog.

Common signs of anti-freeze poisoning

If you suspect that your pet has consumed anti-freeze, you should always seek advice from our veterinarian as soon as possible. In the meantime, you should watch out for the following common signs of anti-freeze poisoning:

-         Diarrhea

-         Vomiting

-         Excessive urination

-         Rapid heartbeat

-         Loss of balance/uncoordinated movements

-         Drunken/delirious behavior

-         Fainting

-         Lethargy

-         Convulsions/fits

-         Unconsciousness

Diagnosing anti-freeze poisoning

For our veterinarian to be able to diagnose anti-freeze poisoning, he/she will need to perform several tests including a physical examination of your pet, a full blood screen and an analysis of his urine. If you are able to collect a sample of your animal’s stool or vomit, this may also be useful in the process of obtaining a diagnosis. If you have the vessel or packaging from the antifreeze that you believe your pet has consumed, you should also take this along to your pet’s appointment.

Treating anti-freeze poisoning in pets

Many inexperienced owners may be tempted to try and make their pet vomit as a way to treat the poisoning themselves without the advice or supervision of a veterinarian. While this should never be attempted without the direction of a qualified and experienced professional, it may be one of the first things attempted by our veterinarian, depending on how long ago the toxic substance was consumed. Medication to induce vomiting can be given so long as the patient has not yet experienced any neurological impairment as a result of the poison.

There is an antidote to anti-freeze poisoning, and this should be given as soon as possible after your pet been affected, ideally within 3 hours for cats and 8 hours for dogs. Administering the antidote before these deadlines will give your pet the best possible chance at a full recovery. The antidotes work by blocking some of the bodily changes caused by ethylene glycol, and in doing so, protects your pet from damage including acidosis and kidney disease. Your pet will almost certainly need to stay in the professional care of our veterinarian until he makes a full recovery, and once its home, should be given plenty of time to rest and recuperate from his ordeal.


If you are concerned about the toxicity of anti-freeze to pets and would like further information, please contact us and make an appointment with our veterinarian.