Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs & Cats (Ethylene Glycol Poisoning)

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During certain times of the year (such as summer and winter), dogs and cats are more exposed to antifreeze. Untreated, antifreeze poisoning can be fatal to pets. Prompt, immediate treatment is necessary in order to save a dog or cat’s life from poisoning.

Sources of antifreeze:

The primary dangerous source of antifreeze is automotive radiator coolant. This is typically a high concentration of ethylene glycol (EG), and come in 95-100% concentrations. Other sources of antifreeze include windshield deicing agents, brake fluid, motor oil, developing solutions for hobby photographers, wood stains, solvents, and paints. Here in Minnesota, a lot of people put antifreeze into their cabin’s toilet to prevent it from freezing during the winter, and we see a lot of toxicities here at Pet Poison Helpline from dogs running into cabins and drinking out of the toilet. Finally, there are rumors of small amounts of antifreeze in holiday ornaments such as imported snow globes. Recently, some were found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol) in the liquid. If a snow globe falls off the table and cracks open, and your dog or cat licks up the contents of the snow globe, there is the risk of antifreeze poisoning.

Mechanism of action:

Ethylene glycol, the primary ingredient in antifreeze, is metabolized by the body to highly poisonous metabolites which lead to severe, acute kidney failure and secondary development of calcium oxalate crystals forming in the kidneys.

Common signs of poisoning:

There are three stages seen with ethylene glycol poisoning:

  • Stage 1: This occurs within 30 minutes to 12 hours, and looks similar to alcohol poisoning. Signs of walking drunk, drooling/hypersalivating, vomiting, seizuring, vomiting, and excessive thirst and urination are seen.
  • Stage 2: This occurs 12-24 hours after a dog or cat has gotten into antifreeze, and signs of “alcohol” poisoning appear to resolve, when underlying severe internal damage is still occurring. Signs of drunkenness seem to improve, but signs of an elevated heart rate, increase breathing effort, and dehydration may start to develop.
  • Stage 3: In cats, this stage occurs 12-24 hours after getting into antifreeze. In dogs, this stage occurs 36-72 hours after getting into antifreeze. During this stage, severe kidney failure is developing secondary to calcium crystals forming in the kidneys. Severe lethargy, coma, depression, vomiting, seizures, drooling, and inappetance may be seen.

Antidote and treatment:

There are only two antidotes for antifreeze poisoning: either ethanol or 4-MP (fomepizole). Cats must be treated within 3 hours of ingesting of antifreeze to be effective, while dogs must be treated within 8-12 hours of ingestion. Delayed treatment often is not effective, and once a dog or cat has developed kidney failure, the prognosis is poor.

Threat:

As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon or two for a dog (depending on their size), can be fatal. If you think your dog or cat has gotten into antifreeze, it is very important that you seek veterinary care immediately for blood testing for antifreeze poisoning (including an ethylene glycol test and venous blood gas test).

Published on February 28, 2011
Categorized under: Pet Safety Tips

22 Responses to “Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs & Cats (Ethylene Glycol Poisoning)”

  1. Jenifer Caldwell says:

    My has had alot of the signs of what you are talkin about but when he was just layin around and not movin much, he vomited and it was a blackish/greenish color to it and it smelt like it was antifreeze but I can’t say that it was cuz of not know what the vomit looks like when he did. He had very bad thrist and wouldnt eat anythin. Just looked very sick and would just lay around. He was not one to be covered up with a blanket but after this happened he would let me cover him up with one. Could you give me a lil more details on what antifreeze posion sign are, I still hav 2 other cats that mainly stay outside and I’m scared that it will happen to them to. Please help me out, your time and effort are greatly apprecaite.

    • Hi Jenifer,
      For additional information, beyond what is written on our site, we ask that you call our Helpline (800-213-6680) and speak with one of our certified veterinarians. Remember, our Helpline is 24/7 and provides immediate veterinary advice, while it may take us several days to respond to a post on our website. We hope that your animals are doing OK.
      -Pet Poison Helpline

  2. [...] Pet Poison Helpline has more information on antifreeze (ethylene glycol) [...]

  3. feral cat colony says:

    I think someone in my neighborhood is purposely poisoning animals. I have several feral cats in my yard, some have been living there since I bought the house 10 years ago. I had them all fixed and I feed them and for the most part they just hang out in my yard. However, in the last month, I have had 2 die and 2 are missing. I know a cat will eventually die and for the ones who have lived with me for 10 years, who knows how old they were before I came along, but it just seems very suspicious that 2 have died and 2 have disappeared. I wonder if poisoned outdoor cats go off to die under a bush. I can only assume the worst about the two missing cats. There is someone in my area who threatened to poison dogs. It isn’t such a stretch to think she made good on her threat and has indiscriminately put out poisons that will kill any animal ingesting it. I’ve called the police and in my state pets are considered “property” and apparently there isn’t a lot law enforcement is willing to do for a semi-feral cat. It is a cruel and horrible thing to do and I don’t know how to protect cats that live outside and are too feral to come into the house.

  4. Chuck Riley says:

    Ihave had about the same threat made by a doper next door. I have a person that knows he has braged about doing this. The police and anm. control refuse to look into this because it is just one less cat to bother with.

  5. Chris says:

    I have been searching the Internet for days on this topic. I had a puppy 10 months old pure lab. Very happy, energetic, and playfull. On Monday she was running with the kids jumping and playing like normal. The next day I noticed she seemed more tired than normal and refused to eat. She continued to drink a lot. The next day she was so lethargic I knew something was wrong. I took her to the vet she was so weak she couldn’t stand I had to carry her. Keep in mind this not even 48 hours since the onset of symptoms. Doc drew blood gave her IV fluids and precautionary antibiotics. We were told the results would be back in the morning. She was so sick that night I stayed up with her she couldn’t even stand to urinate. She lost control of her bladder and the urine was like cranberry juice with thick white clumps. She started vomitting a redish substance. When we think of antifreeze we think green. BUT newer cars use red antifreeze. When the vet called with the results she said the results were so bad she couldn’t believe the dog was still alive. Complete liver failure. Kidney failure. Almost no red blood cells. Extremely high white blood cells. In a matter of only 3 days. Beginning with the first symptom on Tuesday and finally she had to be euthanized on Friday. I kept asking her if the dog was poisoned. She was very hesitant to answer me. She just kept saying it would be extremely rare that it was something genetic because she was so young. I know my neighbors don’t like my adult lab. I truly believe she was poisoned. I had no choice but to euthenize her. There was no chance of recovery. My pup was not an out side dog but had free range of the backyard. Which means she could have only been poisoned by the neighbors. She suffered horribly. This was such a sickening thing that happened to her. My kids were in pieces. I have no physical evidence so I know the police will not do anything.

    • Karen says:

      Chris my lab mix Buffy was just getting ready to turn 4. On June 6th my other lab mix and my bulldog got into a fight with the neighbor’s collie in OUR yard. They usually get along but the dog had been gone or penned up for a month and when she ran barking into the yard they must have taken it as a threat. Anyway, the collie’s owner stood in our yard and threatened to kill our dogs and said if we didn’t believe him he would kill them right then and there. We kept them inside for over a month and walked them on leashes only. There are no leash laws here in the boonies and I felt so bad that my very sociable dogs could not play in the woods anymore. We started letting the 2 lab mixes out at like 1 in the morning after the “neighbor” went to bed (thinking he meant he would shoot them but also thinking that the threat was in the heat of the moment.) Six weeks later my beautiful sweet Buffy who had only been going out during the day on and off became ill and started throwing up and suddenly had no coordination in her hind legs. She had 2 bad seizures. Called the vet the next morning. Had no idea it was antifreeze poisoning. By the time she got in to see the vet even as an emergency too much time had passed. Her creatine levels were twice what they should have been. We were sent home with IV bags of lactated ringers to inject under her skin on the back of her neck for dehydration and to try to flush her kidneys to see if they would work at all. When we returned to the vet for a second check of her levels they had went from 11 to 17..even higher than before. She was in stage 4 kidney failure. She passed 2 days later here at home July 24, 2013. It was fast but not peaceful. She went to vomit and fell over and convulsed twice. Her poor tongue hung out of her mouth onto the floor. I put a towel under her head and held her as I washed her mouth. She was gone. She had a stroke as she died. Her pupils were as big as dimes even as I shined a light into them. I’m still grieving almost 2 weeks later pretty badly. I know who did it too but just like you I have no physical evidence. The county shelter put up a $500 reward for information leading to the conviction of her murderer yet I doubt anyone will come forward. It was a horrible thing to see her so sick at the end. She was like another child to me. She was family. The anger is starting to come to the surface as strong as my grief. The things I’d like to do to that evil man..yet it would not come close to the pain and suffering he caused Buffy and the rest of my family. Her dog brothers and sister were devastated too. Sorry you had to go through this too. There’s a place for people who do this in hell but our sweet dogs are running free in heaven waiting for us.

      • Delrashell says:

        I read your story and was brought to tears, our two pugs and two cats have been poisoned by our neighbors. We have struggled with the young pug whom was five years old for months and spent thousands of dollars to try to save her when we came home one day one her eyes was just cracked in half and all the vet kept saying was she was severely dehydrated…we knew nothing of antifreeze poisoning…now we do and we are pretty sure that’s what it was, she spent months wandering around our home drunk like, hypersalavating, drinking tons of water sometimes up to two gallons a day finally on November 20th 2013 at 3:43 a.m. she vomitted repeatedly threw her head into the air a few times and her good eye exploded and she was gone. Now we watch as our 15 year old pug goes through the same thing and we have noticed that our two cats are sick as well and it’s too late to do anything about it. We have decided to become pet free so we don’t have to feel the pain ever again. Our pets are inside most of the time unless we are outside but our neighbor decided a few years ago to sue us over 1 inch of property and $10,000 in damages which we have no idea where that came from and the judge even asked them and they had no answer well needless to say they did not get anything out of the lawsuit and they can never sue us again over property issues but they were made to look like idiots in the community because my husband and I are both disabled, he has a TBI and I have MS we were not able to have children so we got pets, they weren’t yippy, mean, violent or anything and they even let their grandchildren come play with them. We are destroyed by this. Had we known that 1 inch of property was so important to them we would have given it to them. These people are in the baptist church every time the doors are open one of them is the youth minister! We are sickened by this…heartbroken and just ill. My heart goes out to you for your loss and everyone whom has ever had a pet poisoned. No more pets for us and just so everyone knows we rescued these pets we did not buy them in the normal sense we adopted all of them and saved their lives but in the end we feel responsible. Everyone that reads this will also be glad to know that our evil neighbors have been foreclosed upon this past week and they awaiting a lock box to be put on their home….there’s your 1 inch and $10,000

  6. Chris says:

    @karen
    The symptoms and time frames you are explaining is absolutely identical to what happen to my puppy. It has been 3 full weeks and I just picked up her ashes. One of my daughters can not walk into the back yard because she cries every time in sorrow for our pup.
    I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I went next door and I told them I knew what they did. This man said ” maybe someone went into our yard and fed your dog something from our gate to make it look like we did it” pretty desperate statement in my opinion. Just after that the old man next door pulled a metal pipe out on me and threatened to hit me. In my eyes they just confirmed what I already knew with all their ridiculousness.
    I’m very sorry to hear about your dog. Having gone through it first hand I know what a horrible thing that was to witness. On the last day my dog also threw up she attempted to stand but went down right on her face. It was very heart breaking.

  7. lyn says:

    I know a neighbor is poisoning my cats. Since she moved across the way I have had 6 animals go missing and be poisoned. I didn’t want to believe that the person I had paid to care for my cats when I was off island was killing them. One night I woke up and my kitten looked drunk. I thought my god if I am not projecting. But I did a double take. I knew nothing about antifreeze. I even went through her trash and found some. But didn’t make the connection. Suddenly this horrific puzzle has come together. I am writing this so I don’t kill her. I wish there was a way to test for antifreeze. Does anyone know of such an animal? I am so heartbroken. I can’t believe the evil of Hansel and Gretel right here in my forest.

    • Sara Mouser says:

      Yeah I have the wicked witch of the west on my yellow brick road….my poor sweet Charlie was almost 2 years old and he hated my furbaby and I don’t understand why people just take it upon s them selves to some one else’s pet I mean its not like he bit any one!! He was never mean I mean I have a 10 month old who loved him to death and I know he loved her I’m sorry ur cats are disappearing I still dot understand why people don’t just icnor the pets and leave them alone if they bark or meow just freaking icnor them!! Ya know I’m mad and sad and feeling guilty I feel like its my fault but I know it’s not but that’s just how I feel!! Sorry I’m telling u this I’m just greving for my best friend he was my happy place!! And I need some one to talk to!!

  8. Sara Mouser says:

    Well this last weekend my dog Charlie had gotten really sick I thought he was mad at me!! And I spent some time with him he seems as if he was drunk but I know he didn’t like beer and then Saturday morning he was fine playing and eating drinking water and playing with his rope but then came later that night I saw him he didn’t look well then Sunday morning at 3 am he started throwing up a lot like 9-11 times or more until 10 am then he didn’t drink anything or eat his food or play he just layed then I started getting worried trying to get him to drink water and food even baby food he loved that stuff lol :( but every time I have him some water he would throw it up and it was yellow and foamy it was nasty looking so Sunday night me and my grandma stated up with him to see what he would be doing and he threw up again more times than I can count he still wasn’t drinking or eating he looked bad then I took him to the vet on Monday and they weren’t sure what was wrong with him they thought he had parvovirus but he was almost two (10-29-2011) <- when he was born] I didn't have the money to fine out what he had I know he didn't have parvovirus he never ever ate poop or grass with poop on it he stayed away from it!! Lol but I wanted a second opinion so I made a vet appointment Tuesday the 24th and they took one look at him and said its not parvovirus he's been poisend but by this point it was to late to save him he smelt really bad an his poop smelt like death and the vet said if he had parvovirus his poop wouldn't of smelt like that!! And I had to put him down 09-24-2013 and I was wondering if I could get my neighbor in trouble cause hated Charlie and I don't understand why he hated him its not like Charlie was a bad dog. He loves to love and always wanted to play and I cought him a couple times trying to hit my dog with a 2×4 a bunch of times and even squirted him with water in the face… And when we were burying him my husband saw him pick up a Pepsi can that had some oil of some sort!! In it by the fence where Charlie always go and I think was poisend but I have no way of proving it is there a way of getting him in trouble!! I want him to pay for what he did to my best friend and my little fur baby

  9. craig says:

    I am dying inside reading your stories…how can anyone hate dogs so much to try to kill them? My lab cross just experienced his first seizure (he is only 6 1/2 years old – the vet said this was natural!). It was heart breaking for me…he was completely disoriented and could not keep himself upright…as if he was drunk…His eyes were pleading with me and dilated because he didn’t know what was going on! I went into panic mode and wondered how i would carry my 100lb dog to the car. I work in a winery and there is glycol around. He eats everything so I think he might have helped himself to some glycol and this may have been the cause of his seizure – I love him so much, I was crying…yet I was trying to be in control. To intentionally introduce a dog to glycol is reprehensible. If you believe your dog has been forced to consume or introduced to poisonous products like glycol by another person, it should be reported to your local animal control center or spca. I am an attorney and there are laws that protect you and your pets. You can sue for damages if appropriate, or you can press criminal charges to ensure the bastard does not do the same thing to another person’s beloved pet. On a positive note, my lab cross has recovered and my other dog, an old english sheepdog, has done nothing but give him kisses since he came home…funny how dogs know something is wrong…

  10. craig says:

    Okay,
    @chris
    @karen
    @sara mouser

    If what you say is true and either your neighbor or your neighbor’s pet came onto your property and caused damage to you or your pet, you have a very good legal case. Neither your neighbor nor his pet is entitled to trespass on your property – that is actionable at law. Karen, you have the strongest case and, Chris, you may have a case if you want. If your descriptions of your neighbor’s behavior is accurate, his/her behavior is neither acceptable nor legal! If your pet is staying within the parameters (i.e. fences) of your yard you will surely win. Please prosecute these bastards…they are just trying to intimidate you. It is time that we pet owners ake a stand and protect our “family members”. If you need any more legal advice, please contact me here or at 250-486-3386 free of charge – not looking for money…just wanna use my law degree for the benefit of our furry friends…use “whatsapp” on your phone if you are outside canada.

  11. Suzie says:

    My dog Libby died Monday afternoon. On Sunday we were having a family dinner and she got up from her blanket and was walking like she was drunk. I thought maybe she got into something, but didn’t know what. She was eating. As time passed she began to get worse and lost her bladder a couple of times and was drinking a lot of water, then she began throwing up a few times. First it was what looked like turkey bones she must have gotten from somewhere, then later it just was all the water she was drinking. She continued to worsen and by morning she could not even stand up. My husband took her to the vet where she did everything she could and Libby began to go into seizures and we put her to sleep per the vets recommendation. When she got an xray to see if one of the bones could have cut or lodged in her intestine the vet seen that her kidneys were enlarged. Libby had had some accidents in the past with urinating in her sleep or while just sitting. Her skin itched a lot too and she had an odor that we couldn’t bathe away. Is there a chance she could have just gone into acute renal failure due to some underlying condition. It just breaks my heart to think that she was poisoned and possibly with those turkey bones. She never did have any point where she got better and then got worse again. This was a progression and took about 24 hours in all.

  12. […] be sure to keep antifreeze locked away where it can’t be spilled and ingested.  Animals like the sweet taste, but […]

  13. […] extra care to keep these substances out of reach of curious pets. Seek immediate advice from a vet if you see any signs of poisoning think your cat or dog may have ingested one of these poisonous […]

  14. taylor says:

    if i had suspicions of my dog ingesting anti freeze but its been 8 or so hours with no symptoms is it safe to say shes fine?

    • Hi Taylor,
      Dogs who ingest antifreeze will often show signs right away and then seem normal for many hours. I recommend that any pet who is believed to have ingested antifreeze have blood work performed by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

  15. Christina says:

    All of this breaks my heart. Even more so my own dog is suffering from these symptoms as I write this. My father took him to the vet today hes home now with an I V. Awaiting test resultsbin the morning

  16. Wanda says:

    I am sad to say since moving to an outer area of Mackay, I don’t know if I am allowed to mention this Suburb, so I won’t. I have had my babies, my cats poisoned one after another and I have also had an autopsy done to try and find the answer. Looking at the violent deaths and symptoms, I am convinced it is anti freeze. We have enclosed our entire yard. Informed authorities, no one cares , just one less cat. I event took one of my sick cats to the Walkerston Vet clinic and he rushing off to watch the horse races , I had to beg to get him to look at my cat because this was a closer Vet Surgery.He said he was fine and left, in the morning I received a call to say my cat was dead. I always go to Ooralea Vet Clinic, because they care and they are not locals. If you think Mackay is an answer to your financial griefs, it is not, especially if you love animals don’t come here it has been a living nightmare.

  17. Jerry Bushman says:

    My 9 1/2 year old American Eskimo had two seizures last night. I scared us to death. We had no idea what was going on. This morning I checked online and we think he got into some antifreeze I spilled in the garage the day before. His seizures were more 24 hours after the antifreeze was spilled and cleaned up. We can’t be sure if that was the cause for the seizures but it makes sense. It has been over two days since the possible poisoning and 22 hours since his seizures. From what I’ve read it is hopeless for him now but he seems fine.

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