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Antifreeze Poisoning in Pets

Updated on January 23, 2013

Don't let your pet drink from winterized toilets

What every pet owner should know about the dangers of antifreeze

It is readily accessible, it is easy to lap up and it smells and tastes sweet. Every year, hundreds of dogs and cats are lured to lick some up from a small puddle under the car's leaking radiator.. We are talking about the substance''ethylene glycol'' commonly found in antifreeze.

The occurrences of antifreeze poisoning are much higher in the fall and spring when owners adjust their car to temperature changes. However, antifreeze is not the only product to contain ethylene glycol, rather, this poisonous and lethal substance may be found as well in air-conditioning coolants and brake fluids. The product may be found in toilet bowls of vacation homes that have been winterized during the winter. Also if you are a professional photographer, ethylene glycol may also be found in various products you may use in the development and processing of film in the dark room.

Symptoms Suggesting Ingestion of Antifreeze

Depending on the quantity ingested, symptoms may appear within hours or days. Most appear from 30 minutes to 12 hours post ingestion. Symptoms suggesting ingestion of antifreeze are as follows:

  • ''Drunk'' like gait
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Increased Drinking and Increased Urination (later progressing to no urine output)
  • Lethargy
  • Wobbly Gait
  • Muscle twitching
  • Rapid darting eye movements
  • Coma
  • Death

Ethylene glycol becomes toxic once the pet ingests it. This is due to the production of ''metabolites'' substances that are produced by the pet's body as it breaks down the ethylene glycol, often causing severe kidney failure.

An important product

ToxiBan Suspension with Sorbitol - 240mL
ToxiBan Suspension with Sorbitol - 240mL

ToxiBan Suspension with Sorbitol maybe useful in treating ethylene glycol poisoning.

Tests for ethylene glucol must be conducted before ToxiBan is administered to prevent false positive reactions.


What to Do if Your Pet Ingests Antifreeze

The toxic amount sufficient to poison a 10 pound dog is 1 to 2 tablespoonfuls while the toxic amount that can be fatal to a 10 pound cat is around 1 teaspoonful.

Time is of the essence as there is a small window of opportunity for treatment.. You want to have your pet seen immediately or at worst, within two- four hours before extensive damage to vital organs is done. Your veterinarian may tell you by phone to immediately induce vomiting in your pet: this is accomplished by using 3% hydrogen peroxide in the amount the vet suggests depending on your pet's weight. Induction of vomiting is only effective if accomplished within a short time frame. After that time, inducing vomiting is futile.

Generally after 24 hours have passed post ingestion, there is not much left to do treatment wise, and the pet may not recover, succumbing to acute kidney failure.


Owners suspecting antifreeze ingestion should contact immediately their vet or the Poison Control Center 1-888-4ANI-HELP (charges apply).

If the owner was not able to induce vomiting and the pet has ingested the toxin no longer than 2 hours ago, the veterinarian may try to induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide or a stronger emetic. A gastric lavage may be helpful to remove as much traces of the toxin as possible.

Activated charcoal is then administered to prevent absorption of the toxin by the stomach and intestinal walls. The charcoal binds the toxin and is then expelled in the stool without coming in contact with the dog's tissue. Fluids may be administered to prevent dehydration. Diuretics may be prescribed to treat kidney failure but usually once kidney failure sets in there is a poor prognosis.

20% ethanol is helpful to prevent the break down of ethylene glycol. Antizol is another medication which can be given only to dogs.

There are safer antifreeze alternatives for concerned pet owners on the market. Prestone LowTox® or Sierra® are two examples. They do not contain ethylene glycol but Propylene glycol. When ingested they may cause the same drunk like effect as ethylene glycol but they are not as fatal unless a quite large amount is ingested.

All owners must practice caution in the storage and disposal of ethylene glycol. Radiator leaks should be solved promptly and puddles cleaned off immediately. Dogs and cats should not have access to winterizing products found in toilet bowls of vacation homes and cats should not be left to roam in the neighborhood. Anti freeze causes each years thousands of cases which could have been easily prevent with a bit more care and knowledge.

How to induce vomiting in dogs


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