A poodle puppy playing in snow

Each season brings an array of unique hazards. Winter increases a pet’s risk of hypothermia, aching, arthritic joints, and frozen paw pads. Unfortunately, antifreeze is also highly toxic to pets. What’s worse, the smell and taste of antifreeze doesn’t warn them that it’s unsafe. Antifreeze poisoning in pets is a very real threat this time of year, and prevention is key.

Ethylene Glycol

Ethylene glycol, a type of alcohol, is the main ingredient in antifreeze and is responsible for creating toxicity in the animals that ingest it. Even a small amount of ethylene glycol is poisonous and requires immediate medical action

Increased Risk

Antifreeze poisoning in pets starts to peak when the seasons change, but because products leak all winter long pets are consistently threatened all winter long. A major component of a proactive winter pet safety strategy, it is crucial to know that ethylene glycol is also found in the following products:

  • Brake fluid
  • Motor oil
  • Solvents
  • De-icing solutions
  • Rust removers
  • Paint

Preventing antifreeze poisoning in pets can be as simple as proper storage of any products containing ethylene glycol, but must also involve promptly cleaning up spills or leaks from driveways or garage floors. Because it can be found on the street, watch your pet closely when outside together and rinse paws off upon return.

Ethylene glycol can also be found in snow globes and certain inks. Extra caution is required to ensure your pet is never exposed to items containing ethylene glycol. There are pet-safe antifreeze products that use propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. These can be used in place of traditional products without the risk to pets. 

Prevent Antifreeze Poisoning In Pets

When a pet consumes ethylene glycol, you may see both immediate and long-term effects on their behavior and appearance. Symptoms may depend on how much they ingested and the time between ingestion and clinical signs. 

Ethylene glycol, when processed by the liver, produces toxic substances in the body. 

  • The first stage of antifreeze poisoning in pets may include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive/uncharacteristic thirst and urination, weakness, and loss of balance. 
  • The second stage (anywhere from 12-24 hours after ethylene glycol is consumed) may bring signs of improvement. Unfortunately, this is when the kidneys can become irreparably damaged. Rapid heart rate and fast/labored breathing are characteristic at this stage. 
  • If a pet is not treated, the third stage of antifreeze poisoning in pets typically shuts down kidney function. Acute kidney failure is characterized by appetite loss, vomiting/diarrhea, little-to-no urination, seizures, coma, and death. 

What To Do

Antifreeze poisoning can be treated if early symptoms are caught early. We confirm suspicions with a blood test, and can be treated with an antidote if symptoms are in stage one. Close monitoring of the patient is required along with pain medication and IV fluids. We will test for kidney function damage to determine long-term care. 

Always on the Lookout

If you have questions or concerns about antifreeze poisoning in pets, or need some help with winter pet safety, The Bluffs Pet Clinic is always here for you. We look forward to hearing from you at (651) 388-1103.