Anti-Freeze Toxicity and Pets


Ethylene glycol is the main ingredient in anti-freeze, and is a major cause of poisoning in pets. It has a sweet aroma and flavor, making it inviting to dogs and cats that roam around in the yard, but this dangerous chemical can cause severe illness and even death. Pet anti-freeze poisoning happens when it’s spilled when being added to a vehicle, when a container is left uncapped, or when anti-freeze drips from an engine onto the ground.

Anti-Freeze Pet Poisoning Symptoms

Antifreeze is metabolized in the liver, and can change the blood pH to be more acidic. The symptoms of anti-freeze poisoning usually go through three stages, depending on how long it’s been in your pet’s system.

  • Stage one is 0-12 hours after ingestion. This presents as staggering, walking on knuckles, seizures, and other symptoms that look like your pet is drunk. It may vomit or increase it’s urination and need to drink water
  • Stage two is 12-24 hours after ingestion. At this time cardiovascular symptoms begin, causing your pet to suffer from an increased heart rate and increased respiratory rate
  • Stage three is 24-72 hours after ingestion. This will cause vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure and, eventually if not treated, death

Anti-Freeze Toxicity Prevention

The best way to avoid your pet from getting anti-freeze poisoning is, of course, keeping it away from anti-freeze in the first place. This can be difficult, especially if you have a dog or cat that stays outdoors for much of the time, but there are things you can to minimize the danger.

  • Use anti-freeze with propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. It has virtually the same results in your vehicle, but it is much less toxic to dogs, cats, and other animals
  • When adding anti-freeze to your car or truck, clean up any spills immediately. Dispose of soaked rags or paper towels in a sealed bag or can
  • Keep anti-freeze containers sealed and out of reach of animals
  • Check your vehicle for anti-freeze leaks on a regular basis, and have it repaired immediately if you find a leak
  • Don’t let your pets roam the neighborhood, especially along roads where puddles of anti-freeze may be standing

How to Detect if My Pet is Poisoned

The first few hours after your dog or cat ingests anti-freeze are critical; the longer pets go without treatment the less likely they are to survive. Watch your pet and know its normal behavior. If your dog or cat is staggering around and generally looking like it’s drunk, bring it into Waldorf Emergency Care immediately. Don’t delay second-guessing yourself. If your pet displays any of the above symptoms, bring it into our clinic as soon as possible. Call ahead of time for first aid instructions we may have for you to do before putting your pet into the car. Call our office at (301) 705-9700 any hour of the day or night and we’ll do all we can to bring your pet back to total health.