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Antifreeze Poisoning (Ethylene Glycol Toxicosis)

Updated on September 20, 2012


Antifreeze is an extremely dangerous product for pets. It has a sweet taste that most dogs and cats seem to find irresistible. Just a few drops can be deadly in a small dog or cat. It is extremely important that an animal who has ingested antifreeze gets veterinary attention within the first few hours after ingestion. Unfortunately, many owners do not realize that their pets have ingested antifreeze until it is too late. Many animals who ingest antifreeze do so when they are out wandering the neighborhood. If you ever see your dog or cat ingesting antifreeze or if you even suspect that it is a possibility please call your veterinarian immediately!

Ethylene Glycol

The harmful compound found in many types of antifreeze is ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is also found in certain cosmetics, air conditioning coolants, photographic developing fluid, and other solvents. However, antifreeze is the most common source of ingestion of ethylene glycol by pets. Ethylene glycol itself is not toxic, but it is converted to many toxic compounds within the animal's body after ingestion. These compounds can cause severe damage to the kidneys, resulting in severe kidney failure. If untreated within the first few hours after ingestion, the kidneys will cease producing urine completely and the animal will die. Ethylene glycol and it's metabolites can also affect the central nervous system.

Clinical Signs

The initial signs of ethylene glycol toxicity include incoordination, vomiting, stupor, and other neurological signs. In other words, your pet may appear "drunk" in the first few hours after ingesting antifreeze. After a few hours, your pet will seem to recover from the "drunkenness." However, the deadly toxins are still in the bloodstream and will soon attack the kidneys. This will result in severe kidney failure and eventual death.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian!! The first 2-6 hours after ingestion are extremely important. If your dog or cat is treated within this time frame there is a good chance he will recover. If your pet is not treated within the first 24 hours after ingestion, the prognosis is grave and there is a good chance your pet will not survive. If you have antifreeze in your garage, please store it securely. Do not allow your pets to wander the neighborhood because this is the most likely route of ingestion. Antifreeze is a deadly danger for too many pets each year. Please be sure that yours isn't one of them!

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