Antifreeze Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

Ethylene Glycol Posioning in Dogs and Cats

What is ethylene glycol?

Ethylene glycol, a sweet-tasting, odorless liquid, is the active ingredient in most automotive antifreeze products.

How do dogs get ethylene glycol poisoning?

Both dogs and cats may be attracted to ethylene glycol by its sweet taste. Many animals will voluntarily drink ethylene glycol if antifreeze is spilled or leaks onto garage floors or driveways. Ethylene glycol has a very narrow margin of safety – which means only a tiny amount can result in severe poisoning. As little as half a teaspoon per pound of a dog’s body weight can result in fatality.  Even less is fatal to cats.

What are the signs of ethylene glycol poisoning?

Ethylene glycol poisoning is divided into three stages.

Stage 1:  (within 30 minutes of ingestion): The signs include lethargy, vomiting, incoordination, excessive urination, excessive thirst, hypothermia (low body temperature), seizures, and coma.

Stage 2 – 12 to 24 hours after ingestion: Some of the signs seem to dramatically improve, luring pet owners into a false sense of security. However, during this stage, dogs become dehydrated, and develop an elevated breathing and heart rate.

Stage 3 – (36-72 hours after ingestion): At this stage, signs of severe kidney dysfunction, which is characterized by swollen, painful kidneys and the production of minimal to no urine, may occur. Progressive depression, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, seizures, coma, and death may be seen.

It is critical that you bring your dog or cat to Jefferson Animal Hospital if you know or even suspect that he has consumed ethylene glycol, or if he is exhibiting any of the early symptoms. Do not wait; time is of the essence and immediate treatment is essential! Dogs must be treated within 8-12 hours of ingesting antifreeze, as the antidote only has a narrow time period to work. Left untreated, the animal may die.  Unfortunately, there is no antidote for cats once they start showing symptoms.

How do veterinarians confirm ethylene glycol poisoning?

The best way to confirm ethylene glycol poisoning is by measuring the blood concentration of ethylene glycol. A test to determine the blood levels can be done at Jefferson Animal Hospital. This testing method is very accurate. By as early as 24 hours after ingestion, insufficient ethylene glycol remains to allow detection on this blood test; however, the damage to your pet’s body from ethylene glycol has already occurred.

Ask your local auto stores and grocery to stock non-toxic Antifreeze products.

Pet Poison Hotline