Keeping Pets Safe From Antifreeze

Nov 22, 2021 | Cat Advice, Dog

As the weather gets colder, more people will be using antifreeze and deicer on their cars, which can pose a health risk for animals. 

Antifreeze, which stops the cooling system in cars from freezing, contains ethylene glycol, which is toxic to cats and dogs. Manu de-icing sprays and solutions, as well as screen washes, also contain ethylene glycol. 

Deicers and antifreeze can easily get onto the ground during the winter months, which means your pet lick it up but also may get it on their paws or in their fur. This means your pet can ingest it later on when they are grooming themselves. 

Reducing the chances of your pet coming into contact with antifreeze will help keep them happy healthy, so here’s everything you need to know. 

What effect does antifreeze have on cats and dogs?

If your pet ingests antifreeze, it can be fatal. It is incredibly toxic to animals and can result in kidney failure even if only a small amount is consumed. 

Unfortunately, animals tend to find the liquid to be tasty and so are drawn to it and will lick it up given the chance. This makes it particularly important to know what symptoms to look out for and to do what you can to protect your pets from antifreeze poisoning. 

What are the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in cats and dogs?

Signs that your cat or dog may have ingested antifreeze can appear quite quickly, with symptoms often developing after as little as 30 minutes. It can take two to three days for symptoms of kidney failure to develop, however, which is why you must get your pet to the vet as soon as spot any of these symptoms of antifreeze poisoning:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of coordination/seeming to be drunk
  • Seizures
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Change in temperament/seeming depressed
  • Vomiting

The sooner you’re able to get your cat or dog to the vet to receive treatment, the more likely it is that the outcome will be better. 

Even if your pet doesn’t have symptoms but you believe that they have consumed antifreeze, you should still get them to the vet as soon as possible. It is much better to be on the safe side. 

If you have an outdoor cat, it is more likely that they will come into contact with antifreeze and deicer as they roam outside. Knowing the symptoms will help you to keep them safe as you can get them treatment if needed. 

How is antifreeze poisoning in cats and dogs diagnosed?

Antifreeze poisoning can be diagnosed using blood or urine tests. However, it’s important to note that some of these tests may show a negative result by the time kidney failure develops, which is why early testing and treatment is vital. 

If your pet develops any of the symptoms above and has been outside recently, you should let your vet know this is the case so they can test for antifreeze poisoning as quickly as possible. 

How is antifreeze poisoning in cats and dogs treated?

To be effective, treatment for antifreeze poisoning needs to be administered as quickly as possible. If a vet sees your pet within a few hours of ingesting antifreeze, they may induce vomiting to get rid of any antifreeze that is still in your pet’s stomach.

It is important not to try and induce vomiting at home, as this can cause other issues for your cat or dog. If your pet is showing signs of kidney failure as a result of antifreeze poisoning, more aggressive treatment may be possible, such as fluid therapy. 

How do I protect my pet from antifreeze?

While it may not always be possible to stop outdoor cats from coming into contact with anti-freeze, there are ways you can reduce the chances that your pets will ingest it. This includes:

  • Avoid using antifreeze and deicer products that contain ethylene glycol on your car. 
  • If you need to use products that contain ethylene glycol, clean up any spills immediately and thoroughly, and store the products away from your pets.
  • Use alternatives to deicer altogether, such as covering your car, using an ice scraper and using your car heater to warm the windscreen. 
  • Wash your dog’s paws in warm water when you get home or your cat’s paws when they come inside. This will also allow you to check them for any cuts or sores that could be a result of rock salt.
  • When you walk your dog, avoid oily-looking puddles, liquid around cars and visible road grit. 
  • If you spot any unknown substance on your pet’s feet, wash it off immediately.
  • If you have any concerns at all, contact your vet as soon as possible. 

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