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Antifreeze - The Sweet Tasting Killer

Updated on March 26, 2011

With winter in full blast through much of North America and Europe, it is time to consider one of the most deadly substances you use daily. Antifreeze, while a boon to your car, is one of the most toxic substances to your canine. If you have a pet who has access to your garage or hangs around your vehicle, DO NOT be careless with your use of antifreeze.

What is Antifreeze?

Antifreeze is a product designed to prevent the internal combustion engine are from seizing up in the winter. The most common type contains the main ingredient ethylene glycol (EG). When an animal ingests it, it forms a crystalline oxalic acid. This attacks the kidneys and cause irreparable damage.


A canine suffering from antifreeze poisoning goes through two stages separated by a recovery phase.

Stage 1 of poisoning by antifreeze occurs approximately 30 minutes following ingestion. It consists of the following characteristics:

  • Staggering around aimlessly – uncoordinated actions make the dog appear drunk
  • Vomiting
  • Indications of confusion and disorientation
  • Listless behaviour
  • Drinking numerous amounts of water
  • Urinating more than usual

After stage 1, the animal may seem to recover before entering the worst stage. Stage 2 is marked by

  • Increasingly erratic behaviour
  • Diarrhoea
  • Convulsions
  • A loss of consciousness

What To Do

If you suspect antifreeze poisoning, do NOT hesitate. If you can, get him or her to eat activated charcoal. It works to reduce the effects of the toxins. However, the main thing is to take your dog immediately to the nearest vet or vet clinic. You cannot save your dog’s life. This is up to the Vet. The sooner your dog receives medical care, the better the chances of survival.

The process includes inducing vomiting. This often requires injection of apomorphine in the eye’s conjuctival sac. Afterwards, the vet will flush the eye out. Following this, he or she will cause the vomiting to cease by injecting an antiemetic. A dosage of activated charcoal is required to prevent the absorption of any more toxins by the body tissue.

Once your vet is finished, it is a wait-and-see process. Your dog will have to remain overnight. He or she will remain on intravenous as a precautionary measure.

The Best Action Is Prevention

If you want to avoid antifreeze poisoning, take preventive measures. Do not use EG-based antifreeze. You can opt, instead, for the more environmentally friendly and dog safe propylene glycol type. If this is not possible, take precautions.

  1. Never leave it where your pet can drink it. Antifreeze is sweet tasting making it a desirable beverage
  2. Take care when you are pouring it into your car. Make sure you do not spill any. If you do, mop it up immediately and dispose of it. Remember 2 ounces of it can kill your dog
  3. If antifreeze has been used in a specific area in your garage or on your or a neighbour’s driveway, watch your dog like a hawk

Always keep in mind that many needless deaths occur because of antifreeze. Thousands of cats, dogs and wildlife die annually because someone is careless (in all sense of the word). This is not necessary


Ethylene glycol antifreeze is a sweet tasting killer. Less than 2 ounces of the product can kill. If your animal survives an attack, he or she may suffer from kidney damage. This is a painful way to die or live. It is also avoidable. Switch to a viable non-toxic alternative. If this eludes you, take care to keep your canine companion and all other animals out of harm’s way.



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