Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Medical issues: Antifreeze

Yesterday I went outside to find my husband tackling a radiator. Jury’s out on who won that round – him or the radiator – but in the act of replacing it, copious amounts of antifreeze were unloaded into a big round pan.

And I’d just let Allie out to help me dig holes in the garden! EEK!

I scooped that pan up so fast (okay, not so fast that any of it sloshed out!) and stuck it high up on a shelf where no cat or dog could access it.

The reason for my panic is that antifreeze is deadly to pets. If a cat were to simply walk through it and lick the antifreeze off its paws – that’s enough to kill. And a mere 5 tablespoons of the stuff is fatal to a medium sized dog.

Sadly, both dogs and cats – and children, too! – appear to be drawn to antifreeze. I’m not sure what makes it seem so tasty to them, but if allowed, they’ll drink it.

Antifreeze contains Ethylene (or Diethylene) Glycol, which breaks down into toxic substances once processed through the liver. These toxic substances will then cause kidney failure if not treated immediately – or faster than that! – since absorption can occur so quickly.

Once Ethylene Glycol is ingested, it is rapidly absorbed into the liver from the intestines, and you can begin to see symptoms as soon as 30 minutes after your pet has been exposed. If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested antifreeze, urgently seek emergency help.

If caught quickly enough a vet can administer a drug that temporarily suspends liver function, allowing the antifreeze to pass through the system without breaking down into its toxic components.

They will most probably induce vomiting to expel any remaining antifreeze in the stomach before it hits the intestines, as well as feeding your pet charcoal to bind to any remaining antifreeze.

The charcoal will prevent the intestines from absorbing the antifreeze and sending it on to the liver.

The odds that all antifreeze will be caught before metabolizing are very slim, though, but an emergency vet can also place your pet on dialysis to flush the kidneys and help mitigate the damaging effects of the antifreeze. Hopefully with swift action, the kidneys will be hit with a small enough amount of poison and they will be able to repair themselves.

The best thing you can do, though, is to practice prevention.

Please don’t underestimate the extreme hazard of this substance – to dogs, cats and children. Keep such harmful toxins stored safely out of reach – and if spills occur, immediately saturate the surface with water to dilute and disperse.


  1. Such very important information EVERY pet owner NEEDS to know!

  2. Good info - and mom thinks they make anti-freeze specifically for pet owners.....but she isn't sure...something certainly to think about!!

  3. Great info! This stuff is super scary for peeps and furries!

    Your pal, Pip

  4. This is good information. Humans need to be reminded that antifreeze is VERY dangerous to us animals. Our mom is paranoid about antifreeze and always questions our dad-guy whenever he is working on his cars.

    BTW, congratulations!! You are the winners of our FURminator giveaway! Please contact us at theislandcats AT gmail DOT com and give us your mailing address so we can have your FURminator sent to you!!

  5. I was frightened at the first line and title..whew! Great message and thank goodness you babies aren't affected. I hope everyone learns.

  6. That's why I'm an indoor kitty. The only cats allowed outside should be the unfortunate feral cats. I read animals are drawn to antifreeze because it has a sweet smell to them. Also in cold weather, cats like to curl up inside a car engine because it's warm, which is yet another danger. Many a cat have gone on long, unwanted journeys inside a car engine. Some are found before any damage is done except to their pride.

  7. Mommy did read that anti-freeze is very very toxic to animals. She was under the mistaken impression that it wasn't applicable here but apparently that isn't true. We'll get her to do more reading on this.

  8. Good post! Very important info. Thanks x

  9. Mary here - thank you for this very important, informative article. I had forgotten about antifreeze being lethal. My husband doesn't do it himself, so we never have it around, but this is an excellent thing to remind people about,

  10. This is one of the reasons we are not allowed where the laundry gets done - the washer and dryer are in the garage and my human worries that there might be some anti-freeze residue, or something else almost as toxic, on the floor!

  11. Thanks so much for the warning and information. We would so hate for anything to happen...

    Knowledge is power, indeed.

  12. When Mommy was little, the dog next door drinked it. It made her very sad as Sporty was a great dog. Mommy never forgots and will not lets Daddy change radiators at our house and even if he is topping up he is not allowed to do it at our house.

  13. The information you posted is so important. There are a few other things people can do to help keep their pets safe. First, is to purchase pet safe (safer) antifreeze. It uses propylene glycol instead of the highly toxic ethylene glycol. Another option is to purchase antifreeze that has had a bittering agent added to it. Instead of being sweet and tasty, it's bitter and animals won't drink it. Another thing is if you see a spill, pour clay cat litter on it. It will absorb the antifreeze and make it less likely that a pet or wild animal will eat it.

  14. SO scary and SO important. I'm going to keep my paws where they belong!
    xo, Katie


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