Dog Poisoned from Drinking Windshield Cleaner at Gas Station

The Details

Unknown Open Containers of Liquid Are Potential Hazards to Pets


Last summer Luis Gutierrez and his dog Bobby hit the road from Covina, Calif. to head to Utah to ride Razors. On the way, they came across something they don’t see at home – an open bucket of windshield cleaner sitting between the pumps at the roadside gas station.

“In California, the windshield cleaner and squeegee are in a protected container that animals can’t get to,” Gutierrez said. “In Utah and Nevada, the gas stations we stopped at had windshield cleaner sitting in an open bucket.”

As summer approaches, the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline® want to warn pet lovers about the potential danger windshield cleaners and other unknown items can pose to pets while traveling.

“At home Bobby drinks water out of a bucket, so drinking from one on the road would be natural to him,” explained Gutierrez. “When we made our first stop in Nevada, Bobby jumped out, found the bucket, and started chugging. I saw probably three big chugs, but it could have been more. At first, I didn’t think much of it.”

Later that day Gutierrez and Bobby stopped at another gas station, where the dog once again drank from an open bucket of cleaner fluid.

“After the second stop Bobby started vomiting. I drove a little further, and decided I needed to call for help,” Gutierrez said. “My first call was to Pet Poison Helpline®. After explaining what Bobby had potentially ingested, and his symptoms, they recommended I take him immediately to the Cedar City Animal Hospital for evaluation and treatment.”

“The concern with windshield washer fluid is the potential for methanol poisoning.  Some mixtures may also contain ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in antifreeze that may cause death when a toxic amount is ingested,” said Dr. Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline®. “Methanol exposure can cause central nervous system issues such as lethargy and ataxia or seizures in severe cases. We can also see gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhea and vomiting, hypotension, hypoglycemia metabolic acidosis, and potentially respiratory collapse and death, depending on the dose ingested.  Ethylene glycol exposure can cause similar signs as well as renal injury and failure.”

Once at the hospital, Gutierrez provided the veterinary team with Bobby’s case number so they could speak directly with the Pet Poison Helpline® experts. The toxicologist recommended the hospital immediately perform an ethylene glycol test and a venous blood gas (VBG) test to look for a metabolic acidosis. They also administered an antiemetic, anticonvulsant and intravenous fluids.

“I have to admit, it was a little frustrating that when I called Pet Poison Helpline®, they sent me to a veterinarian anyway,” Gutierrez added, “but their involvement ended up being critical. I didn’t realize that they would stay in contact and provide the clinic with specific treatment recommendations. It really is a lifeline and I appreciate it.”

“Fortunately for Bobby, he did not ingest enough of the windshield cleaner to develop more severe signs of poisoning and made a full recovery.  Bobby’s case is a great example of why you need to be aware of your pet’s environment, especially when traveling,” Dr. Schmid advised. “When visiting family or friends, for example, your dog might come in contact with medications, plants or other dangerous items that you pet-proofed in and around your home.”

Bobby is April’s Toxin Tails case of the month. Pet Poison Helpline® created Toxin Tails to educate the veterinary community and pet lovers on the many types of poisoning dangers facing pets, both in and out of the home. All the pets highlighted in Toxin Tails have been successfully treated for the poisoning and fully recovered.


About Pet Poison Helpline®

Pet Poison Helpline®®, your trusted source for toxicology and pet health advice in times of potential emergency, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. We are an independent, nationally recognized animal poison control center triple licensed by the Boards of Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Pharmacy providing unmatched professional leadership and expertise. Our veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline®’s fee of $85 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the case. Based in Minneapolis, Pet Poison Helpline® is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.