Antifreeze is a common hazard for dogs because a small amount can cause fatal damage to their systems. Our Tigard veterinarians explain the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning and what you should do if you find your dog drinking it.
What is antifreeze poisoning in dogs?
Tragically, many pets die each year from antifreeze poisoning - a common hazard for dogs. It can happen as easily as your dog licking a few drops of this from your driveway after it’s dripped from your car’s radiator.
What is in antifreeze?
The lethal chemical in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, and dogs can consume a lot of it before its aftertaste starts to take effect. But by then, it’s too late; it only takes less than three ounces (or 88 ml) of this liquid to poison a medium-sized dog and cause fatal damage to its system, including the kidneys, brain, and liver.
Hydraulic brake fluids also contain ethylene glycol. Homeowners may add antifreeze to their toilet bowl to protect their pipes for the winter, so be cautious if you are visiting other people's homes with your pet.
What are the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in dogs?
Here are some common signs of antifreeze poisoning in dogs:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Uncoordinated movement
- Excessive urination
How will my vet diagnose antifreeze poisoning?
If your dog has antifreeze poisoning, you will need to bring your pet in for a physical exam. Your vet will ask about which symptoms you’ve been noticing and how the poisoning may have happened.
If possible, we will test their stool or vomit, as well as perform a urinalysis and chemical blood profile. These tests can assist the veterinarian in determining the cause of the poisoning and expediting treatment. This treatment will be based on your dog's medical history as told to the vet, so be as detailed as possible.
How is antifreeze poisoning treated?
Because antifreeze poisoning can be fatal, immediate first aid must be administered with extreme caution. Only induce vomiting if you are certain that your dog has consumed antifreeze. We recommend contacting your veterinarian before inducing vomiting in some cases of poisoning because some substances can seriously damage the esophagus.
A simple hydrogen peroxide solution can be used to do this - only if the poisoning has occurred in the previous two hours. Give one teaspoon for every five pounds of body weight, with a maximum of three teaspoons at one time. The teaspoons should be spaced 10 minutes apart.
If your dog has already vomited, do not try to induce more vomiting. vomiting does not occur after your dog has had three doses of hydrogen peroxide, seek immediate veterinary attention.
Vomiting should also not be induced if your dog is having problems breathing, is in serious shock or distress, or is unconscious. Also, whether he vomits or not, your dog must be immediately rushed to your vet, who can safely administer antidotes.
Antidotes may include activated charcoal, which will stop further absorption of the ethylene glycol. 4-methylyrazole can also be used to effectively treat antifreeze poisoning if given quickly enough after your dog has ingested it. There is still a possibility of kidney failure, so your dog may need to be in intensive care.
Dogs who have consumed antifreeze in very small amounts may survive, but will develop kidney failure within days of ingestion. Kidney damage kills many dogs who have been poisoned by antifreeze.
How can I prevent antifreeze poisoning?
While antifreeze can do devastating damage to your dog’s system, poisoning is preventable. Here are some steps to take today:
- Propylene glycol is safe, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Look for antifreeze with this ingredient, which can keep your pet safer from ingesting ethylene glycol.
- Do not allow your dog to wander where they may have easy access to antifreeze, such as in driveways, garages, streets, etc.
- Inspect your car’s radiator on a regular basis, and have leaks repaired immediately.
- Close antifreeze containers tightly, and keep them out of reach of your dog’s curious nose.
- Ensure any antifreeze spills are immediately and thoroughly cleaned.
- Dispose of used antifreeze containers properly.